Lack of action enabled stalking


Men’s Basketball Head Coach Robert Colbert was informed of former Keene State College employee Eugene “Gino” Vallante’s reported behaviors nearly three years before Vallante’s firing on March 5, according to documents obtained by a right-to-know request by The Equinox.

Vallante, who was fired amid allegations he engaged in inappropriate behaviors toward KSC athletes and students, worked with Colbert at KSC for eight seasons over the course of two job stints.

According to Vallante’s resume, after graduating KSC in 1997, he began working with the men’s basketball team the same year.

Coach Colbert was an assistant that season. When Colbert took over as head coach in 1999, Vallante was promoted from assistant coach to associate head coach and director of recruiting — two positions that did not previously exist.

After the 1999-2000 season, Vallante left KSC for the head coaching job at New England College, where he coached for two years.

A screenshot of the Silent Witness web page on the Keene State College Campus Safety website.

A screenshot of the Silent Witness web page on the Keene State College Campus Safety website.

Four former NEC players said their time at NEC in those two seasons was fraught with habitual phone calls from Vallante, who asked them questions about their “private parts,” masturbation and pornography, among other things.  Three of those team members said playing basketball for Vallante involved being, “consistently and severely sexually harassed.”

Vallante left NEC in April of 2002 after players on the team said they reported his behavior to Athletic Director Lori Runksmeier and former President Ellen Hurwitz.

Emails provided by a former player show former NEC Vice President for Student Affairs, Joe Petrick, acknowledged Vallante’s behavior. All four former players said NEC allowed Vallante to resign.


Efforts to warn KSC officials

Nick Lowery, an NEC basketball player from 2001 to 2003, emailed coach Colbert in May of 2011, according to documents obtained by The Equinox.

By that time, Vallante had been Director of Basketball Operations and had extensively recruited for the men’s basketball team.

Vallante was also program coordinator of the Night Owl Café and ran Fast Break Broadcasting, a company that employed many KSC students.

In the May 7, 2011 email, Lowery wrote about a recent encounter with a KSC basketball player.

Lowery wrote to Colbert, “Your current player automatically agreed with everything I said about the horrific conversations my teammates and I had with [Vallante] and what he is currently still doing with your players.”

Documents show that when Lowery emailed Colbert again twelve days later, “checking in on how everything was going,” Colbert responded eight minutes later.

Colbert wrote, “I have no reason at this time to think that anything has happened here unless someone comes forward but will deal with this when the students return [from summer vacation] I guess. I would listen to anyone who has been affected by this alleged behavior at Keene.”

A former KSC basketball player, who wishes to remain unnamed, told The Equinox that he informed Colbert that Vallante was making him feel uncomfortable in 2010 — a year prior to Colbert’s May 2011 email exchange with Lowery.

The emails show that on the same day as Colbert’s response to Lowery, an NEC player whose name is also being withheld emailed Colbert.

“I am writing to confirm everything [Lowery] said… Furthermore, I can provide proof. After our meetings with the NEC administration re: Gino’s actions I had a series of e-mail exchanges with members of NEC’s administration. I still have those e-mails… These emails provide explicit details of what we were put through, along with acknowledgement that these things took place by the NEC administration.”

The emails show both former NEC players asked Colbert to take the issue “very seriously” — and they also show that Colbert’s May 19, 2011 response to Lowery was the last time he ever emailed the two former NEC players, according to right-to-know requests.

Other emails The Equinox obtained from its right-to-know request show 2011 was not the first time a former NEC player had reached out to a KSC official.

In January of 2005, more than six years before Colbert’s email exchange, the former NEC player whose name is being withheld emailed KSC Director of Athletics John Ratliff and NEC Athletic Director Lori Runksmeier.

In the January 23, 2005 email, the player wrote to Ratliff, “I am disgusted and outraged that Gino is again allowed to be involved in college athletics” and characterized the team’s seasons under Vallante as “the worst times of our lifes.”

The email, which documents indicate neither athletic director responded to, later asked, “How long until he gets another coaching job and is allowed to do what he did again?”

The answer to that question would be 2007, when Vallante began recruiting high school students on behalf of the KSC Men’s Basketball team, according to documents obtained by The Equinox.

In March 2014 when The Equinox requested a comment from Colbert and Ratliff, KSC Media Relations Manager Kelly Ricaurte responded, “Because our investigation is ongoing, John Ratliff and Rob Colbert will not be answering questions.”


Despite warnings, Vallante’s role at KSC grows

Documents also show Vallante’s recruitment payroll rose exponentially between the years of 2007 and 2010, before Vallante stopped recruiting in February of 2011.

The records show that between the years of 2007 and 2011, Vallante went on recruiting trips to 76 towns spanning six different states on behalf of the men’s basketball team.

Three of the former NEC players told The Equinox they were aware of Vallante acting inappropriately to potential NEC recruits.

So far, The Equinox has no information regarding inappropriate behavior by Vallante toward high school KSC recruits.

But Vallante’s recruitment was only part of his employment with KSC. According to KSC Director of Human Resources Kim Harkness, Vallante’s salary as program coordinator of the NOC at the time of his termination in 2014 was $40,600.

Brian Schnee, who broadcasted with Vallante until graduating KSC in 2013, told The Equinox that Vallante helped many athletes find on-campus jobs.

“How did athletes get a job in school? Well, they went to Gino. He was an advisor to a lot of these students,” Schnee said.

Nicco DeMasco, who played basketball for KSC from 2009 until 2012, said Vallante was his unofficial academic advisor when he started Facebook messaging DeMasco about sexual topics.

Documents show many KSC students reached out to Vallante for jobs at the NOC and Fast Break Broadcasting.

Meanwhile, KSC students and employees continue to assess Vallante’s behaviors over the last nine years.

In a March 13 letter, New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan wrote to Todd Leach, PhD, Chancellor of the University System of New Hampshire, and said, “Particularly concerning [to the governor] are allegations made in media reports that Keene State College employees may have previously been alerted to potential misconduct.”


Zach Winn can be comtacted at

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