NJCAA levies 3-game forfeit penalty on GCCC football
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
The Garden City Community College football team has forfeited three wins this season due to the use of an ineligible player, the college announced on Wednesday afternoon in a press conference at the Perryman Athletic Complex Hall of Fame room.
The discovery of the ineligible player came during a random audit conducted by the NJCAA, which began in September. During the audit, the NJCAA found a discrepancy in a Second Year Signing Agreement form, which is needed for players transferring between NJCAA member schools. The form was not on file with the school, therefore rendering the player ineligble to play, according to the NJCAA.
The identity of the player was not released by the school.
There were no other penalties imposed on the GCCC football program.
"The student was a non-scholarship athlete who was released from his letter of intent from his previous community college and was attending GCCC in the spring of 2013," Athletic Director Ryan Ruda said in a written release.
Because the ineligible player competed in the first four games of the season, Garden City was forced to forfeit any wins during that time, which include wins over Independence, Cisco (Texas) College and Air Force (Colo.) Prep. The fourth game, a loss to Hutchinson, was not affected. All forfeits will result in a 1-0 loss for Garden City.
After becoming aware of the discrepancy, the proper paperwork has since been filed on behalf of the player, clearing him to play in all other games. The Second Year Signing Agreement form needs to be signed by both the player and the previous school's athletic director and president if said player is transferring to another NJCAA member school. However, there was mass confusion about the form after its implementation, according to Garden City's sports information director, Dan Delgado.
"This Second Year Signing Agreement, that is present in every NJCAA institution for every sport, has caused a universal problem, confusion, as to what's what," Delgado said at the press conference.
It's that confusion which prompted GCCC to appeal the initial decision of the NJCAA staff to the Board of Directors, citing the vagueness of the form and a specific line on the form which states, "Scholarship was not offered for the second year. (Transfer Waiver not required)."
With the player in question not on scholarship, Garden City believed it had not committed an infraction. "In fact," the release reads, "the college had an email from Brian Beck, assistant executive director of compliance at NJCAA's national office, regarding his communications to GCCC on another student the year prior to 2012 indicating that, '...since the student was not offered a second season scholarship offer, by rule, this student may transfer to another member college and does not need a Transfer Waiver to be immediately eligible."
Ruda could not clarify the exact differences between that email decision on another player and the recent decision by the NJCAA after the audit.
A call and email to Beck was not immediately returned.
"We felt like it was a very minor technicality to call into question," Ruda said about the severity of the three forfeits.
KJCCC commissioner Bryce Roderick, a member of the NJCAA Board of Directors, said he wrote a letter supporting Garden City's appeal. He also abstained from voting on the matter because of his involvement in the appeal, Roderick said on Tuesday in a telephone interview.
However, the appeal was denied by the NJCAA Board of Directors in a "majority vote."
Ruda said the college was informed Monday by NJCAA Board of Directors President Joe Tubb.
The 11-member board also includes athletic directors Norma Dycus, Sinclair (Ohio) Community College; Mick McDaniel, Tompkins Cortland (N.Y.) Community College; Donna T. Genova, Bronx (N.Y.) Community College; Rex Parcells, Hill (Texas) College; Al Williams, North Idaho College; and Randy Stange, Hutchinson Community College. Devid Elder, Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association, is the only other conference commissioner on the board besides Roderick. Mary Ellen Leicht, NJCAA executive director, and John S. Erwin, president of Illinois Central College, are the remaining two members.
"We've complied with the national office there, like we always will," Ruda said. "They clearly understand our frustrations that this is an unacceptable punishment for the very minor technicalities that was called into question."
The GCCC administration informed the football coaches and student-athletes on Wednesday of the forfeits after standings were updated on the NJCAA and KJCCC websites, respectively.
Broncbusters' first-year head coach Matt Miller was not available for comment.
Ruda said he had previously made an agreement with both the KJCCC and NJCAA that he would like a chance to meet with the team and the media before adjustments were made to the standings.
"In the discussions that we had with the national office, and with our commissioner (Bryce Roderick), we asked to be able to visit with the media, our coaches, and our student-athletes first, before anything was released online," Ruda said. "We weren't afforded that opportunity."
"It's unfortunate," Ruda said later, "because I think it talks about the issues we've been having within this conference this whole football season."
Roderick responded on Tuesday to those questions.
"(The standings) were put on the NJCAA and I was being asked about our standings," he said, "and I told (Garden City) they needed to get moving because the information was going to be coming out."
GCCC administration was adamant that the infraction was a lone incident, citing that other transfer football players have been deemed eligible and all paperwork is correctly on file.
"We do run a very ethical, legal, morally upright athletic program," Ruda said. "I will stand by that."
Ruda also said later that, ultimately, the incident is his responsibility.
The Busters' record, now reflecting the three forfeits, is 2-4 in conference and 2-6 overall. They will finish the season with a road game at 7 p.m. Saturday at Coffeyville.