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Gavilan Football players: From high expectations to sad ending

Gavilan College football players find housing in Hollister, then are sent home for breaking recruitment restrictions.

 

With her kids grown, Hollister resident Marie Brown decided that her house was just too empty. So she called a friend to help her place an advertisement, seeking tenants.

Within less than a month, the Gavilan College football players who had moved in to Brown’s house were kicked off the team for violating recruiting rules.

The 17 football players were accused by Gavilan Athletic Director Ron Hannon, of breaking recruiting rules by receiving prohibited transportation, housing, food and benefits. Instead of practicing football for the coming season as planned, they were promptly sent home in the first week of September.

Brown explained in a phone interview Sept. 8 how it all began. “My friend helped me put 'room for rent' on the Internet,” Brown said. “Then, she (the friend) called me and asked, ‘Are college kids OK?’” Brown recalled. 

“I said, ‘Sure.’” Brown said.

Brown, who is a 68-year-old attorney in Hollister, said over a few weeks time the number of housemates gradually increased. “I had two and then I had four," she said. Eventually, she said, it got up to “10 or more” college-age kids staying at her house. Brown said all the male athletes were African American except one.

“Good, nice young men,” Brown said of the players. “It is sad to me. I’m sick to my stomach about it,” she told BenitoLink. Brown said that if the school were more focused on the kids and less on the regulations, it might have turned out differently.

Explaining the issue from the community college’s point of view, Jan Bernstein Chargin, Gavilan's director of public information said, “Athletes can’t derive a benefit because they’re on the football team.”

Bernstein Chargin cited specific violations of California Community College Athletic Associaton (CCCAA):

“The specific violations involved recruiting and benefits, specifically the following Bylaws of the CCCAA Constitution:

2.5.5: Out-of-state recruiting is prohibited except upon written approval by the CCCAA Board.

2.11: ...Subsidization in any manner by the college or individuals or groups acting in the interest of the college is not permitted... examples of service of financial assistance which would be prohibited include....

2.11.2B: The paying for, the providing of, the pre-payment with expectations of reimbursement, the providing at less than actual cost of the waiving of a prospect’s student-athlete’s tuition, fees, housing, meals, books, supplies, transportation, student body cards, laundry services, clothing, groceries, telephone calls, etc

2.11.2C: The obtaining, securing, or soliciting of housing for a prospect/student-athlete that is not available to all students at the community college.”

 

Bernstein Chargin said the school held a two- and a half-hour “Eligibility Meeting” for the athletes at the school on Aug. 7.

She explained that, acting on a phone call to Gavilan College Superintendent/President Dr. Kathleen Rose from a concerned parent, the college hired an outside investigator who came back reporting the living situation at Brown’s home as “in violation” and in direct conflict with CCCAA recruiting rules.

Bernstein Chargin said that when following recruiting rules, “it has to be the same arrangement available to these students as it would be if they were not athletes.”

As a grandmother, Brown felt she was treating the young men like she would any college student. She told BenitoLink that her grandson stayed with her in a similar arrangement when he went to Hartnell College. Eventually, he moved out to complete his education at Humboldt.

Brown said the young men staying with her pitched in financially, buying four bunk beds, eight mattresses and a futon. She said the college asked if she bought groceries for the athletes, which she had. But she said the young men also purchased groceries.

“They bought lots of chili beans, canned green beans, rice, tomato paste, stuff like that and with that I would cook up chili and spaghetti, hot dogs and cornbread,” Brown said.  Some of the athletes also pitched in on the cooking.

“Nobody asked me, but I used their food too!  For most of these kids, it was their first time away from home,” she said.  They lived and ate together at Brown’s home for about a month when they were notified they were violating the rules.

Now, one assistant coach has resigned and two staff members have been suspended by the community college while it continues an investigation. It is unclear whether the school discussed appropriate housing arrangements with the athletes early on. 

Gavilan’s news release about the incident stated, “Dean Ron Hannon will also be conducting additional in-service training with the football coaching staff. Each coach will be required to be recertified with the CCCAA prior to any additional recruiting activities.” According to the school, there are 66 players still on the football team.

 

“I put kids through college, I know what it costs. Their parents paid for them to come out here,” Brown said. “A lot of focus was on the politics instead of having to do with the kids and where they need to be. And then they hand them a ticket home. They had such high expectations. It is very sad."

 

According to Bernstein Chargin, all 17 athletes were offered the opportunity to continue taking classes at Gavilan, though they would not be allowed compete in sports. None of them accepted the offer and all went home, this time, on Gavilan’s dime.

 

 

There have been some corrections of errors and updates made to this story. (091417  at 16:00:00)

Reporter's note:  Gavilan's football team is 0-2 on the season after a 14-9 loss to Redwoods on Saturday, Sept. 9.

About:
Leslie David (Leslie David)

Leslie David is a Bay Area independent reporter/producer and is a BenitoLink founding board member. She has produced for radio, television, newspaper and magazines in both California and Wyoming. She was with KRON-TV News in San Francisco as camera-woman, editor and field producer, where she won the Commonwealth Club's Thomas Storke Award with Linda Yee for their series on the Aids Epidemic. She started as a small market news reporter shooting her own 16mm film at KEYT-TV Santa Barbara. Leslie lives on a ranch with her family in San Benito County.

Comments

Everyone knows you need poor Black kids to make a good football team.  Since we do not have enough poor Black kids locally, all the coaches were doing was importing poor Black kids as their attempt to bring diversity to the local student body and especially the football team  (sarcasm).

It's not like the coaches were cheating to advance their personal careers (more sarcasm).  The kids are just the pawns in the game.  What ever happened to coaching the kids you do have to make them the best football players they can be even if it's not a winning team?  I know, that would be too much like real work.

Maybe the Gavilan coaching staff should be recruiting a Sports Ethics Officer, I wonder if they will have to go all the way to Florida to find one? 

Marty Richman

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

I read the article twice, but I am still confused about what exactly happened.  I feel there's a lot of reading between the lines.

The 17 male football players were accused by Gavilan Athletic Director Ron Hannon, of breaking recruiting rules by receiving prohibited transportation, housing, food and benefits.

This sentence attributed to a Gavilan College administration official is the most dishonest, morally bankrupt and counter-intuitive statement intended to shift blame to the real victims in this situation - the out-of-state football players - that it's almost too difficult to believe. 

Why doesn't Athletic Director Ron Hannon take responsibility for the failure of his staff to follow CCCAA rules and regulations and resign his post, rather than accuse the students who were likely illegally recruited by those in his employ? 

Brown, who is a 68 year-old attorney in Hollister, said over a few weeks time the number of housemates gradually increased, “I had two and then I had four.”

 

Call me cynical if you will, but it also strains credibility that a seasoned career attorney is a victim of ignorance of the laws, rules and regulations that govern how many tenants may live in your home under these circumstances. A reasonable person - one without a law degree and 40-years of experience practicing law - would understand that renting rooms to 17 students under one roof is probably not a good idea and against some sort of city code. Heck, why not take in 17 homeless people? Because doing so puts you and your neighbors at risk.

Ultimately, the sadness of this story includes the failure of Gavilan College to suspend its entire athletic program until a thorough investigation reveals the depth of administrative collusion and culpability that enabled this situation, from top to bottom. 

Ok, you're cynical - as you should be.  I guess you don't think that some kid from the southeast called the Gavilan coaching staff and said, "My 16 friends and I are just dying to play for you based on your famous football program, please come and get us - and while you're at it we want you to pay for transportation, food and housing."

The total African-American enrollment at Gavilan in 2014-2015 was 140 or only 2% of the student population and all of a sudden 17 Black kids show up living in one house, all male and all from out of state - what's wrong with this picture that even a kindly landlord might notice?

OBTW, who was going to pay each one's $6,600 a year out-of-state tuition fee, Santa Claus?

There is more to this story if the school is really interested, which I seriously doubt based on their slap-on-the-wrist attitude.  Let's give the low-level coaches immunity and get them in front of a criminal Grand Jury so we can find out who Santa Claus really is.

The entire coaching staff should be fired not only for conspiracy to violate the rules, but also for gross stupidity. Seventeen new out-of-state Black players at Gavilan at one time - they might as well put a neon sign on the field that says, "We're so good this year because we're cheating."

Marty Richman

First, which Grand Jury jurisdiction? San Benito County doesn't really fund its Grand Jury, so it would have to be a Santa Clara County Grand Jury where the Gavilan College campus is located...because San Benito County taxpayers funded a $25 million dollar bond to build an education center or campus which netted us the deed to an artificially inflated piece of vacant agricultural-zoned property in a semi-rural area. (More cynicism)

"The entire (football team) coaching staff" that "should be fired" is - or should be - responsible to the Athletic Director; and he blamed the imported students instead of his staff who are responsible to know and apply CCCAA standards to recruit students. Once again, blame the victims, not the culpable staff who devised this subversive act of collusion.

Yes, we need to understand who 'Santa Claus' is and the nexus that was devised to game and cheat the system, the students, the college and the Athletic Department. This isn't a singular act of 17 out-of-state students cheating their way into a relatively obscure community college football program as described by Ron Hannon. This story appears to illustrate a well-organized act of collusion: 

  • col·lu·sion: a secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others.

 

 

 

Gavilan College continues to disappoint students and the general public with decisions that show poor judgment.  The latest mistake is the scandalous event that transpired at the college with the removal of out of state football players from the current football team. This action was taken because of the illegal recruitment of these players by their coaches.  The magnitude of this scandal is unprecedented with the number of players involved in this crisis.  Sadly, these 17 young men were exploited by the college.

The athletic code for community colleges does not allow for players to receive room and board as an incentive to play football or other sports.  The actions of the football staff is disgraceful and highly unethical.  What concerns me most is the lack of leadership by college officials, from the president to the athletic director..

The ethics and professional standards of an institution of higher learning must be upheld in all aspects of the educational experience, from the classroom to the athletic field.  Our young men and women rely on positive and honorable leadership.

John E. Bessa

Ronald K Hannon DEAN Gavilan College, 2016 Salary

$ 137,456.54 plus total benefits = $183,410.45

Ethics and integrity? Can't put a price on that, apparently. 

Submitted by (Laurie King) on

It is very unfortunate that 17 young men were sent home and were not able to fulfill on their dreams of playing football at the college level and through no fault of their own. Their parents in some cases had incurred hardship just to send their sons out to California to attend college, and it is heartbreaking to see their efforts come to nothing because of someone else's lack of integrity.

First of all, the students are not innocent. Has anyone asked what their individual GPAs were? Did these "kids" even graduate from a high school? They obviously were not qualified to play at Swampland City College, so how did they qualify to play out here? What frosts me is that Gavilan paid for their way home. 

The no out-of-state recruiting rule is a big one. That started this whole mess. How did recruiting to Florida get reimbursed? How did phone calls to Florida get reimbursed? Just close down the athletic department and make way for qualified teachers. What is the purpose of a football program for 66 students? How does that help anyone learn? Play intramural football if you insist on being concussed.

Strange synchronicity here. I went to UCSB when they shutdown their intercollegiate football program in 1967. The athletic director was Donn Bernstein.

--William McCarey

First of all, this opinion is reckless bias without merit or meeting standard burden of proof. Why are they not innocent? You fail to cite anything which the students may be guilty of; no crime, no civil infraction, no requisite scholastic criteria, nothing demonstrative whatsoever except being exploited by the Gavilan College Athletic Department, so of course the students are innocent until proven guilty which is the rule of law in America. Perhaps they are guilty of being Black which offends certain people in the U.S. And those people are commonly referred to as racists. 

Further, look up the definition of synchronicity, it doesn't apply to your following statement which harkens back to 1967, thus rendering your opinion an anachronistic apophenia. 

 

 

Can't argue with the decision to pay their way back home, it's fair; besides, it's a lot cheaper than day-one of a lawsuit which still may not be out of the question. 

The real culprits here are the members of the coaching staff who participated and whoever was bankrolling this plan.  The coaches are, supposedly, the adults and they are employees of a public institution.   The fact that they may be able to corrupt some kid who wants to play football with an offer they can't refuse, especially when the kid likely has no other options, is hardly shocking.

The biggest and richest colleges in the nation are caught doing illegal things all the time, especially for athletes who are dead certain to make millions playing pro ball in the future.  Anyone ever hear of Reggie Bush?  The kids certainly know some of the rules; but they also know what is actually happening in real life.  

I ask again, how were these kids going to pay their $6,600 out-of-state tuition if they and their families had little or no assets?  The obvious answer is that they couldn't, so who was going to pick up the bill and how were they going to do it?

Marty Richman

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