Hofstra officials wasted little time suspending Welsh without pay, announcing the punishment just as Welsh was being arraigned before noon at First District Court in Hempstead. Welsh has a five-year contract worth $3 million, the largest deal the university has ever awarded a coach.
Police said they found Welsh, 49, asleep and drunk in the driver's seat of his 2006 Lexus at a green light on Hempstead Turnpike at about 1 a.m., about three miles east of campus. Welsh's blood-alcohol level registered at .18, more than two times the legal limit of .08, in a test taken two hours later, according to court papers.
Welsh, of East Greenwich, R.I., pleaded not guilty to aggravated driving while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated and obstructing an intersection. His bail was set at $2,000 bond or $1,000 cash bail. His Rhode Island driver's license was suspended.
Welsh did not return an e-mail message seeking comment and his cell phone voice mail was too full to accept new messages. His lawyer, Michael DerGarabedian of Rockville Centre, said Welsh "hasn't commented" on his suspension from Hofstra.
"He's waiting for the dust to settle," Dergarabedian said. "He'll be meeting with his defense team and they'll make decisions about his future."
Welsh's next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Welsh told police he was returning from City Cellar, a wine bar in Westbury. "I had white wine to celebrate with a late dinner," Welsh said, according to court papers. "I'm sorry."
According to police Officer Michael Bjornstad's deposition in court papers, Welsh was "asleep behind the wheel with his foot on the brake, vehicle in drive, and motor running" at the corner of Hempstead Turnpike and North Bellmore Road, by the Wantagh State Parkway.
"Perhaps had things been a little different, he could have lost control of that car, maybe took his foot off the brake," said Det. Lt. Kevin Smith, the police department's chief spokesman. "People could have possibly been hurt."
According to two people familiar with the situation, Hofstra includes a standard-language morality clause in its coaches' contracts, giving the university the right to terminate a deal if the person acted in a negligent manner and brought negative publicity to the school.
University officials declined to comment, choosing instead to release a statement: "We have learned through media reports of the charges against Mr. Welsh. Effective immediately, he has been suspended without pay, while the University investigates the charges against him."
Welsh has been living on campus since he was hired March 31, one of his defense attorneys, Joseph Coluccio, said during the arraignment.
Prior to getting hired by Hofstra, Welsh spent the past two years working as a college basketball analyst for ESPN. That followed a 10-year stint as the men's basketball coach at Providence, where he led the Friars to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and 2004 and the National Invitation Tournament three other times.