The booster linked to the NCAA’s four-game suspension of South Carolina freshman wide receiver Damiere Byrd has been banned from associating with the university.
Kevin Lahn, a 1983 USC graduate who until this week was the Philadelphia president of the Carolina Alumni Club, will be disassociated by the “university and its programs for an indefinite period,” according to a letter mailed to him Friday.
Lahn, who has hosted USC president Harris Pastides at a party in his Philadelphia home, feels “betrayed” by the decision, said Steve Gordon, a friend of Lahn and the president of the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation.
South Carolina “should have made some show that they support him,” Gordon said before acknowledging, “He did make some mistakes, and the foundation made some mistakes.”
Lahn, who declined comment Wednesday, is the treasurer of the SAM Foundation, a Delaware-based organization that helps inner-city athletes receive scholarship offers and qualify academically for college. Lahn and the SAM Foundation provided Byrd with $2,700 worth of “recruiting inducements” and impermissible benefits, according to the NCAA. Those benefits included lodging, transportation and meals during unofficial visits to campus as well as parties at Lahn’s home and gift cards, according to the NCAA.
“We probably deserve some kind of sanctioning as a foundation, but to take it out on (Byrd) makes no sense at all,” Gordon said.
Byrd was one of the most highly rated members of South Carolina’s 2011 recruiting class. He starred at Timber Creek School in Sicklerville, N.J., which is 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, and was rated a four-star recruit by most analysts. He impressed the coaching staff during the preseason with his speed and was expected to play immediately. Unless the Gamecocks make a successful appeal to the NCAA, Byrd won’t be eligible to play until the Oct. 1 Auburn game.
Pastides attended a party at Lahn’s home on Aug. 9, 2009, said Luanne Lawrence, South Carolina’s vice president for communications. Lahn hosted a freshman send-off party for Philadelphia-area high school graduates who were enrolling at South Carolina. Pastides had no knowledge at that time of Lahn’s association with Byrd or the SAM Foundation, Lawrence said, adding that it is customary for a senior staff member to attend freshman send-off parties.
Pastides’ schedule did not allow time for an interview with The State this week, Lawrence said.
The South Carolina Alumni Association’s website features an article on Lahn, touting his Gamecocks-themed basement and close ties with the school. He is a graduate of the Darla Moore School of Business and, according to Gordon, has been a “very generous” financial contributor to the school.
“I’m always recruiting young people to attend the University of South Carolina, including my own relatives,” Lahn told the Alumni Association for the article. “My home is good-sized, so I can accommodate a lot of people. A real ‘homey’ feel helps everyone feel comfortable. I tell the kids that someday when they become successful, they’ll have to invite me to their house so I can see their Gamecock rooms.”
Lahn is a commercial real estate developer who is an executive vice president at R.J. Waters and Associates. He hosted a reception for the school’s track and field team at a Philadelphia restaurant on April 30, Lawrence confirmed. According to the Alumni Association’s website, Lahn also hosted a Philadelphia reception for the men’s basketball team, was a manager for the basketball team for five years and is on the Alumni Association Board of Governors.
As a result of his disassociation, Lahn will not be allowed near the school’s athletics department or its athletes unless he is attending a sporting event. Lahn will not be able to purchase tickets through the school, Gordon said.
“So they took his season tickets away? You know that that means? He’s got to go to StubHub. And you know what? He’ll save money,” Gordon said. “I tell you right now, with regard to Kevin Lahn, he has gotten more satisfaction out of helping the kids who used to be in our foundation than he ever got for anything he ever did for the University of South Carolina.”
The NCAA’s investigation of Lahn dates to 2010, according to the letter he received from the school. He was asked by NCAA investigators about providing impermissible benefits to “one or more prospective student athletes” being recruited by USC and providing extra benefits “to one or more current student athletes,” according to the letter. The school determined some of those allegations were correct, the letter stated.
“Effective immediately, you are disassociated from all activities associated with the University of South Carolina,” read the letter, which was signed by athletics director Eric Hyman and school counsel Walter Parham. “You are also disassociated from other University-related activities such as involvement with the alumni association and University development.”
Lahn’s “level of cooperation with the terms” of his disassociation will be a factor in how long he is disassociated, according to the letter.
Byrd and Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who just completed a two-game suspension, were members of the SAM Foundation, Gordon said. Byrd attended parties at Lahn’s house and was given gift cards, but the organization didn’t spend money on Byrd, Gordon said. The SAM Foundation did spend money on Floyd, Gordon said.