Valley Torah basketball coach linked to CSUN sanctions
An investigation into academic fraud and the Cal State Northridge (CSUN) men’s basketball team could involve the current head boys basketball coach at Valley Torah High School in Valley Village.
A Dec. 7 report published by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) revealed that a former director of basketball operations’ computer was used to complete 125 hours of online coursework for 10 players. The NCAA did not name the staffer, but a Dec. 7 story in the Los Angeles Times indicated that an investigation by the paper found that it was Lior Schwartzberg, who coaches at Valley Torah and is a former CSUN director of basketball operations. He was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 28, 2014, CSUN told the NCAA.
The NCAA’s report said the unnamed staffer at the center of the controversy had “no explanation” for evidence that showed logins on several players’ accounts and submissions of assignments and quizzes from a computer with an IP address from his parents’ house more than 70 miles from campus. The metadata review of the staffer’s computer actions involving players’ academic accounts detailed in the report is from a period beginning in the fall of 2013 and ending in the fall of 2014.
According to the NCAA’s report, the staffer appeared at a hearing in front of an NCAA investigative panel and said “that the previous director of athletics and previous head men’s basketball coach told him to monitor student-athletes’ academics because the institution was concerned about its academic progress rate.” He went on to say that he only monitored the students’ progress and denied any wrongdoing.
When reached by text message, Schwartzberg told the Journal that his legal counsel has instructed him to not make any statements. He did not indicate who was representing him legally.
Schwartzberg told the Times in a text message: “I deeply disagree with the decision and many of its facts.”
Schwartzberg is a 2008 graduate of UCLA, where he majored in philosophy and minored in Hebrew and Jewish studies and served as a scout team player for UCLA’s women’s basketball program. His coaching history includes a five-year stint as a varsity assistant — three years at Brentwood School and two years at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo. He also was a video coordinator on the UC Irvine coaching staff before CSUN hired him as director of basketball operations before the 2009-2010 season.
In the fall of 2014, several student-athlete mentors and staffers raised issues with the classwork of some players, according to the 26-page NCAA report. The mentors and staffers determined players had no knowledge of coursework that had been submitted by players. The grades for online classes were “significantly higher” than grades for in-person classes. The NCAA claimed the staffer did the work for them.
CSUN then began an internal inquiry, hired attorney Carl Botterud to oversee an independent investigation and apprised the NCAA of possible violations. That resulted in CSUN implementing a self-imposed one-year postseason ban that was upheld by the NCAA.
“I am proud of the way the university, Matador Athletics and the Men’s Basketball program faced these violations aggressively, without hesitation and showed our values in action,” CSUN Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Brandon Martin said in a Dec. 7 statement.
The NCAA mentioned that CSUN had taken curative action, such as replacing its compliance director, forming a body of 10 faculty members to supervise academics for the athletic department, and allowing student-athletes only one online class per term.
Still, there were penalties levied by collegiate athletics’ governing body against the CSUN men’s basketball program. These include three years of probation, a one-year postseason ban and vacating wins from games involving the players. The NCAA, as outlined in its report, also issued a five-year show-cause order against the unnamed staffer in the report, which would make it difficult to get another job with any NCAA school.
This isn’t the first time CSUN athletics have faced allegations of academic misconduct. The NCAA penalized CSUN in 2004 when the men’s basketball program self-reported that an assistant coach oversaw two other assistant coaches changing the transcripts of a player to keep him academically eligible to play.
During the 2011-2012 season, CSUN scored poorly on the annual Academic Progress Rate report, which counts the number of student-athletes who stay in school and are academically eligible over a four-year period. The subpar score resulted in a ban from postseason play that season.
Schwartzberg joined Valley Torah in 2015. When reached by the Journal, officials at the school declined to comment on the coach.
Brad Turell, whose son Ryan is a standout player for Schwartzberg at Valley Torah, continued to support the coach. He issued the following statement on behalf of his family: “Ever since we met [Schwartzberg], his conduct and performance have been exemplary. He is a great coach, tireless worker, extremely well-organized, conscientious, and a pleasure to be around.”