Archive for Friday, August 4, 2006

Community college athletic programs punished

August 4, 2006


— All athletic programs at Barton County Community College except for men's basketball have been put on probation by the National Junior College Athletic Assn. and the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference.

The probation, announced by the NJCAA on Wednesday, stems from a work-study and financial aid scandal that led to indictments against seven former coaches and former athletic director Neil Elliott. It prevents any program except for men's basketball from participating in postseason competitions, including regional and national tournaments.

The men's basketball program already has completed a maximum two-year probation.

"Due to the noncompliance of NJCAA bylaws that came to light during the recent court cases, the NJCAA and the Jayhawk Conference felt it necessary to hand down a punishment to all teams at Barton County outside of men's basketball," Wayne Baker, NJCAA's executive director, said.

Only one of the cases went to trial in U.S. District Court - that of former track coach Lance Brauman, who was convicted on five felony counts. Other coaches and Elliott entered guilty pleas to reduced charges.

Although the federal investigation had focused on Barton County's basketball and track programs, Baker said there was enough "testimony that alluded to other programs with potential work-study problems" to warrant a department-wide probation.

Baker declined to discuss which programs may have been involved or whose testimony prompted the decision, but he said the scandal represented a "lack of institutional control" at the college from 1998-2003.

During that time, Barton County won 23 national championships. According to NJCAA bylaws, the school will be able to retain those titles.

Baker said that if the college follows proper procedures, including filing online eligibility transcripts, it can ask for the postseason ban to be lifted sometime during the 2006-07 academic year.

Barton County President Carl Heilman issued a statement Wednesday saying that the school respected the NJCAA's decision, but he questioned whether the unethical actions of a few individuals was cause to punish other innocent programs.

"Although Barton County Community College may have lacked athletic programming accountability, this is not indicative of the college as a whole or the value that is placed on students and their learning success," the statement read.

Coaches at Barton County were accused of using work-study and campus employment programs to pay athletes for work they didn't do, of falsifying academic records and of causing false academic transcripts to be sent to other schools, among other things. Prosecutors said the work-study scheme was devised to bypass conference rules against offering full athletic scholarships in Kansas junior colleges.

Bryce Roderick, the conference commissioner, said the scandal has been "the darkest moment in KJCCC history."

The school's current athletic director, Kurt Kohler, called news of the probation "a sad day in our history."

"There were a lot of innocent parties at Barton County that were affected," Kohler said. "Obviously things went on, but we'll take the opportunity to move on, to clean up and make sure we're on the right track."


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