Gavilan will punish itself for football violations

Seventeen Gavilan football players, including Josh Riley, were sent home after the college discovered they were living rent-free in Hollister.

Gavilan College announced self-imposed sanctions this week after recruiting and benefits violations came to light, leading to 17 football players’ dismissal in August.
The football program will be on probation for three years and barred from postseason play for two years. In addition, athletics staff will undergo in-service training with Athletic Director Ron Hannon and the school will give the minutes and agendas to the Northern California Football Conference for review. Football coach Mike Dovenberg also must give monthly reports on the team’s recruiting efforts.
Two assistant coaches were placed on leave pending further investigation into their involvement with the rules violations. Gavilan officials said the two coaches could face further action up to and including termination.
A source said one of the coaches has stepped down from his position, but Gavilan denied a resignation has been tendered by either of the coaches.
“The college has an opportunity now to ensure that all of our processes are reviewed, and all responsible personnel are provided the training and oversight to ensure that this never again happens at Gavilan College,” school President Dr. Kathleen Rose said in a statement.
Rose added that going forward, athletics recruiting will undergo much more scrutiny, particularly when out-of-state students are involved.
“From the first moment this situation came to light, my focus, and that of the athletics department, and the board of trustees was on the welfare of the students,” Rose said.
Players dismissed from the team argued the opposite, suggesting the reason they were sent home was racially motivated.All but one of the 17 student-athletes sent home are African American.
School officials said they offered players a chance to remain on campus as students but were turned down. The students were given plane tickets or gas cards to return to home. Players came from as far away as Oregon, Chicago, Houston, Florida, Baltimore and Virginia, among other places. The cost to send the students home is estimated at $10,000, according to Gavilan officials. The college confirmed that this money came from “undesignated funds” from the Gavilan College Educational Foundation.
Rose said the Gavilan board of trustees did not need to give approval for the expenditure, but was made aware of the release of funds for the tickets and gas cards. Hannon said in a press release that he fully supports the sanctions.
“This is appropriate. This is fair. It is within the guidelines,” he said. “It has been a very troubling occurrence for the athletics program. We have a reputation, statewide, for strict adherence to the rules. This situation does not reflect who we are, nor does it meet our high standards as an intercollegiate athletic program. As a member institution in good standing within the (California Community College Athletics Association), we will continue to uphold the constitution and bylaws.”
Nor Cal Football Commissioner Gary Kollenborn, whose office signed off on the self-imposed sanctions, said Gavilan conducted its investigation by the book and there was no need to further punish the college beyond the self-imposed sanctions.
“Gavilan did an excellent job in terms of researching issues and following our constitution and bylaws and taking appropriate actions,” Kollenborn said.
The controversy first started when Gavilan learned that the 17 out-of-state players were being housed in a three-bedroom house in Hollister. Players apparently arranged a deal with the homeowner to purchase items for the house, such as beds and bedding for them all to sleep on, as well as pay for their books and school tuition. In exchange, the players would start paying rent in September once they had jobs and moving expenses were taken care of. The players were also accused of receiving free food from the homeowner, who would cook them dinner.
The former student-athletes insisted that food was not a perk but rather just the owner offering the players a chance to eat meals she was already preparing.
Kollenborn said that despite the seemingly altruistic nature of the arrangement, it became a violation because it wasn’t readily offered to all Gavilan students.
He added that student-athletes cannot receive benefits that are not readily available to all students at the college. If there isn’t a widely available announcement open to all students, Kollenborn said, the athletes cannot be offered a deal to not pay rent.
In effect, if a for-rent announcement had been posted at Gavilan’s campus offering a chance to waive the first month’s rent for students—and the house was open to rent by all students—the arrangement would have been fine.
However, because the athletes and the homeowner came to the arrangement among themselves, it counted as an extra benefit and as such was a violation under the CCCAA guidelines.
“This is not how any of us wanted to start the academic year,” Rose said, “but we will come out of it with stronger controls, better training and the benefit of a robust campus dialog regarding what happened.
“We have, and will continue to strive for these principles in our handling of this matter, and will continue to be transparent about our actions.”
Next Steps
School officials said they are now doing an audit of the entire athletics department, beyond just looking into the football program
Rose insisted that this is not a reaction to the events that led to the 17 players being dismissed from the football team.
“This really is an opportunity to do an audit of all the athletic processes and procedures to make sure we’re in compliance across board,” Rose said in a Sept. 13 interview.
Dr. Rose has just completed her first year as Gavilan’s president and noted that this was just an opportunity for her to catch up with the athletics department.
“I want to make sure we’re doing what’s best for the student athletes and make sure all the student athletes receive all services both athletically and academically,” Rose said.
Gavilan became aware of the football team’s recruiting and benefit violations after a mother expressed concerned that her son might get evicted from the house. Soon after, he and the 16 other players called the president’s office.
This kicked off a wave of investigations that ultimately uncovered the arrangement reached between the players and landlord, as well as a probe into their recruitment. The recruitment investigation continues.
California junior colleges are prohibited from contacting and recruiting students who live out of state, except in cases where they receive special permission from the CCCAA to do so.
Some of the football players contacted by the Gilroy Dispatch said that they either found Gavilan on Twitter and reached out or had friends and family members who attended or played sports at the college.
The two coaches placed on leave were responsible for recruiting for the football team.

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