Gavilan College officially announced its self-imposed sanctions stemming from accusations of recruiting and benefits violations against the football team that saw 17 players dismissed in August.
The football program will be on probation for three years and will be barred from postseason play for two years. In addition, the athletics staff will undergo in-service training with Athletic Director Ron Hannon and will give the minutes and the agendas to the Northern California Football Conference for review. Finally, football coach Mike Dovenberg must give monthly reports on the team’s recruiting efforts.
Two assistant coaches were also placed on leave pending further investigation into their involvement with the rules violations. The college said if it is found the two coaches—who it didn’t name but a source familiar with the situation has identified the coaches as Austin Reville and Carlos Woods—further action up to and including termination will be taken.
A source said one of the coaches has stepped down from his position, however, Gavilan said no 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,” Gavilan College President Dr. Kathleen Rose said in a press release.
Rose went on to say that going forward athletics recruiting will be undergoing much stronger scrutiny, particularly where out-of-state students are concerned.
“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.
Gavilan sent home all 17 after the college said it offered them a chance to stay on as students but were subsequently turned down. The students were given plane tickets or gas cards to return to their homes, as far away as Florida and Virginia.
The players came from Oregon, Chicago, Houston, Florida, Baltimore and Virginia, among other places.
Gavilan said the cost to send the students home is estimated at $10,000. The college confirmed the source of the funds came from “undesignated funds” from the Gavilan College Educational Foundation.
Dr. 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.” Hannon 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 its sanctions were by the book and there was no need to further punish the college.
He praised the college’s openness through the process.
“Gavilan did an excellent job in terms of researching issues and following our constitution and by laws and taking appropriate actions,” Kollenborn said.
The controversy stems from 17 out of state players who were housed in a three-bedroom house in Hollister.
The players had 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 books and tuition for school. They said they would start paying rent in September once they had jobs and the moving expenses were taken care of.
The players were also accused of receiving free food provided by the homeowner who would cook for the players in the evenings.
The players insisted the food was not a perk but rather just the owner offering the players a chance to eat meals she was already preparing.
Kollenborn said despite the seemingly altruistic nature of the arrangement, it became a violation because it wasn’t readily offered to all Gavilan students.
He said student-athletes cannot receive benefits that are not readily available to all students at the college. Kollenborn said if there wasn’t a widely available announcement open to all students, the athletes cannot be offered a deal to not pay rent.
In effect, if a for rent announcement was posted at Gavilan 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 just 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,” said Dr. Rose, “but we will come out of it with stronger controls, better training, and the benefit of a robust campus dialog regarding what happened.”
She reinforced her commitment to hold the college to the highest standard.
“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,” Rose said.
Gavilan looking into all sports
The college said it is now doing an audit of the entire athletics department, beyond just looking into the football program
Dr. Rose insisted this was not a reaction to the events that led to 17 out of state students getting dismissed from the football team.
“This really is an opportunity to do an audit of all the athletic processes and procedures to make sure in compliance across board,” Dr. Rose said in an interview on Sept. 13.
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,” Dr. Rose said.
The controversy into the football program came to light because a mother who was concerned her son might get evicted from the house he and 16 others were staying in called the president’s office.
That kicked off a wave of investigations that ultimately uncovered the arrangement reached by the players and sparked questions into their recruitment.
The recruitment investigation is still ongoing.
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 they either found Gavilan on Twitter and reached out or they had friends or family members who attended or played sports at the college.
The two coaches placed on leave were responsible for recruiting for the football team.