Barton County coaches sentenced

Four coaches involved in athletics scandal at Great Bend school to serve time for crimes

Citing “institutionalized fraudulent conduct” at Barton County Community College, a federal judge Monday sentenced the last four coaches involved in the athletics scandal at the Great Bend college to serve time for their crimes.

A federal investigation into financial aid and academic fraud in the athletics department led to the convictions of the athletic director and seven coaches and to the firing of the college’s president.

“This is something everybody knew was going on at Barton County Community College – and nobody put a stop to it,” U.S. district judge Monti Belot said at the sentencings Monday.

Former basketball coach Ryan Cross and former athletic director Neil Elliott were both sentenced to four months in federal prison followed by three years of probation.

Belot sentenced former track coach Lyles Lashley to three years of probation plus 12 weekends in the county jail. Lashley also was ordered to help repay nearly $19,000 in restitution.

Former track coach Lance Brauman was given a year and a day in federal prison followed by three years of probation.

Brauman, the only coach to stand trial in the investigation, also was ordered to help Lashley pay nearly $19,000 in restitution.

Belot said student athletes were the victims in the scandal because the coaches were essentially saying that they did not have to follow the rules.

He said the fraud involved not only financial aid but also a lack of academic integrity.

“Some of the fraudulent conduct occurred in the classroom – this is not the message teachers and coaches should be sending to young students,” Belot said.

The highest ranking Barton County official indicted was Elliott, 42, who resigned as athletic director in May. He pleaded guilty to mail fraud for a scheme to get a medical hardship ruling for a basketball player who was not entitled to it, so that the athlete could play basketball for an extra year.

A jury convicted Brauman, 36, in July of one count of embezzlement, one count of theft and three counts of mail fraud for using a federal work-study program and campus jobs to get around a conference ban on giving athletes full scholarships and causing false academic credentials to be sent to the University of Arkansas on an athlete’s behalf.

Lashley, 33, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of programs receiving federal funds. Lashley, who worked at Barton from 2002 to 2006, admitted that he prepared false time sheets for student athletes representing work they did not do.

Cross, 33, the basketball coach at Barton until 2002, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for his part in a scheme to defraud the University of Cincinnati of the services of basketball player Kareem Johnson, who lacked the necessary college credits to transfer to the university.

Cross admitted that while he was coach at Chipola Junior College in Marianna, Fla., he made arrangements for one of his assistant coaches to pose as Johnson and take an online course from Barton County Community College in the summer of 2002 so Johnson could get the necessary credit. Cross told the judge he never intended to harm Johnson.