On March 5, 2014, Eugene ‘Gino’ Vallante was fired from Keene State College after allegations of sexual harassment while coaching at New England College [NEC] surfaced.
More than a year later the official report is in.
The 131 page investigation done by the firm McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton became public on March 27, and the reports suggest Keene State College’s athletic director and basketball coach had numerous occasions to prevent further abuse but failed to do so.
More than 33 interviews were done for this report alone, including “current and former KSC administrators, faculty, coaches and staff; current and former KSC basketball players, students and interns; current and former KSC professional and student staff at the Night Owl Café and Student Center; former basketball players coached by Vallante at NEC; and members of the KSC community, in person and by telephone,” according to the report.
The report also noted that NEC refused to cooperate with the investigation and “denied access to any current or former NEC administrators or employees.”
The timeline of allegations, with Vallante bouncing between numerous colleges and job titles, dates back over ten years.
The college years and after graduation: 1993-1999
Vallante attended KSC in 1993 and graduated in 1997 with a BA in Social Science and a minor in Psychology. He didn’t play basketball at the school, but was always interested in basketball and was eventually hired as an assistant coach in 1996 while still a student.
During his initial stint at KSC, though, Vallante was already overstepping his boundaries. “How often do you masturbate?” Vallante asked one of his roommates one night after a party.
This roommate of Vallante is referred to as KSC John Doe 1 in the official report. KSC John Doe 1 lived with Vallante and two other people in his senior year.
These late night phone calls were a regular occurrence, with many players on the KSC basketball team also being asked sexually-explicit questions by Vallante. Doug Jenkins played basketball at KSC in the 1990s and recalled the “shit show” when other players discussed the content of Vallante’s late night calls. Jenkins is currently the assistant basketball coach at KSC. Jenkins said that he had been warned of Vallante’s behavior by some of his peers.
Vallante stayed a coach for the basketball team until 2000 when he left KSC to become the NEC Head Men’s Basketball Coach. According to the report, “KSC has no records of any formal or informal complaints made against Vallante as a student or recent graduate in the 1990s.”
Head Coach at NEC: 2000-2002
Vallante coached at NEC from 2000-2002. He was hired as a head coach even though he had little actual coaching experience and no head coaching experience, according to the report. Three students gave descriptions of misconduct that Vallante displayed during his time at the school.
NEC Student 1 became well-acquainted with Vallante while he was trying out for the KSC basketball team in 2001. He and Vallante saw each other regularly through mutual friends saying that, “Vallante was an open, warm person,” according to the report.
When he stopped going to tryouts Vallante proposed that he transfer to NEC and play on the team.
NEC Student 1 transferred in the second semester of his 2001-2002 year. Soon after he began playing for Vallante.
Vallante, again, overstepped his boundaries. Before he was even on the team NEC Student 1 remembered one phone call when Vallante asked, “whether he had sex with any girls and for how long he could last during sexual intercourse.” These conversations would start off normal before Vallante became more explicit.
Just like Vallante’s early years at KSC, these phone calls became consistent and frequent. NEC Student 1 found out that he wasn’t the only one getting these phone calls. Other players on the basketball team recalled similar conversations with Vallante and openly discussed the content of these phone calls.
According to the report, Vallante inappropriately touched NEC Student 1 in his office on at least three occasions. Vallante placed one hand on the student’s thigh and one on his shoulder, massaging with both hands.
“Vallante’s ongoing victimization of NEC Student 1 led NEC Student 1 to break down crying during a class in the spring of 2002,” page 24 of the report reads. “After NEC learned of Vallante’s pattern of sexual harassment, NEC never interviewed NEC Student 1 about his experiences or offered him counseling,” it continued.
Another former NEC basketball player, referred to as NEC Student 2 in the report, said he too received inappropriate phone calls from Vallante. The phone calls would begin in relation to basketball and transition into a more sexual line of questioning.
Vallante would often ask questions related to masturbation and pornography. Vallante persisted with this line of questioning even when the student made it clear he was uncomfortable.
According to the report, NEC Student 2 identified ten other former NEC players who experienced similar conduct.
NEC Student 3 was also interviewed in the report. He said that Vallante would call him about twice a week after 9:00 p.m. As in other cases, NEC Student 3 soon discovered that other players were receiving late night calls from Vallante.
Eventually, NEC Student 3 confronted Vallante on the subject matter of his phone calls and told him to stop. Soon after, Vallante would barely talk to NEC Student 3. His playing time on the team plummeted.
“There were times where I went entire halfs or even entire games without stepping foot on the court,” NEC Student 3 said in an email he sent to Joe Patrick, former NEC Dean of Student Affairs and Lori Runksmeier, Director of Athletics in 2002. “All the while when I was being ignored, my teammates, the freshmen in particular, were getting it much worse than they had in the past,” his email to NEC administrators continued, “Among things I was told was said to different people were, ‘do you get aroused when you kiss a girl,’ ‘are you hard right now?’ ‘When you go to the showers after games, who’s the biggest and who’s the smallest,’ and ‘how big are you? Get yourself hard and go get a ruler.’ Over the next day and a half, the team met many times trying to decide what to do.”
The conversations were getting worse and more inappropriate with time. The players decided to call Vallante in for a private meeting in the spring of 2002 to confront him on his conduct. NEC Student 3 said Vallante made excuses in the meeting and said the conversations were an attempt to connect with the players. Vallante agreed to resign days after, avoiding being fired after further investigation.
Return to Keene State: 2005
From 2002-2005, Vallante worked at Bank of America in Keene. Vallante also streamed games for the athletics department on the internet while working for Fast Break Broadcasting [FBB] starting in 2004. In 2011 Vallante became the owner of FBB and had his own contract to stream games for the athletics department.
Just months after Vallante began broadcasting KSC basketball games for FBB, KSC Director of Athletics John Ratliff received an email in January of 2005 from NEC Student 3 that expressed his “disgust” at the rehiring of Vallante at KSC.
“For many of us, our ‘experience’ with Gino was one of the worst times in our lives . . . I was afraid at the time that not enough was being done to make sure he was never allowed to be near young college athletes again, and apparently my fears have been validated. How long until he gets another coaching job and is allowed to do what he did again?” a section of the email reads.
Ratliff never responded to the student’s email.
On June 30, 2005, Vallante was hired again at KSC to a full-time position as Manager of the Night Owl Café in the student center, where he hired, trained and supervised around 30 students.
The student staff that talked about Vallante in the report said they liked him and the student center didn’t receive any complaints about him while he served as manager of the Night Owl Café.
The report says that Vallante and a former basketball player he coached, NEC Student 4, remained in contact for years after Vallante left NEC. The student said while he was playing for Vallante there were never inappropriate conversations. When Vallante was back at KSC, though, his conversations with NEC Student 4 followed suit with the others — questions about masturbation and sexual relationships. The student asked Vallante to stop with the phone calls and the two haven’t spoken in about a decade.
A former NEC basketball player contacted current KSC Director of Athletics John Ratliff in 2005, but nothing happened.
More former NEC players contacted Robert Colbert, current basketball head coach in 2011, but nothing happened.
Vallante continued to coach and continued his involvement with KSC students and employees for ten years, spanning from his start broadcasting with FBB to becoming one of the basketball coaches.
The signs were there. The stories were there. But there wasn’t anyone to listen.
Skyler Frazer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org