By Grant Abston, Sports Editor
Almost a week after the NCAA penalized the ACU track and field and football programs for several violations, the ACU administration is still deciding what actions to take in the appeal process.
The clock is ticking – ACU has 15 days to decide if it will appeal any of the violations and an additional 30 days to file its protest if it chooses to appeal. A decision to appeal must be made by Feb. 27, and the university is still considering that decision.
“We’re still in the process of deciding our course of action and what we’re going to appeal and if we’re going to appeal,” said Jared Mosley, director of athletics and compliance coordinator. “I feel very certain that we’re going to move forward in that direction, but it will probably be close to the end of the 15-day window.”
The NCAA forced the football team to vacate all its wins in the 2007 season in which the team finished 10-3. The ruling came after two prospective student-athletes received academic assistance by members of the football coaching staff in order to help them attain academic eligibility at the university. In addition to the vacation of the wins, sanctions could eliminate team and individual records and statistics from games won by ACU in 2007.
ACU alumnus Corey Jordan, who led the team in interceptions while playing defensive end for the Wildcats in 2007, said he thought the punishments were unfair and did not see what the ACU coaches did as any kind of violation.
“I was a little disappointed that all the records and wins would be taken away,” Jordan said. “Everyone worked hard on that team, and I don’t understand why the team was penalized for someone receiving help. Our coaches were guys that drilled academics more than football, and for that penalty to come down on them is very misleading.”
In order to appeal, ACU would appear before a sub-committee of the NCAA Division II Management Council, different from the NCAA Division II Committee on Infractions that heard the initial case. The council is comprised of athletic directors and administrators from universities all over the country. The initial committee had members whose universities did not all include football and track programs; however, Mosley said he thought their decision was not biased.
“I would say that it may be difficult for that committee to understand the difficult and unique challenges to institutions that offer football and track and field, two sports in which the landscape and dynamic of the recruitment process and the nature of going about it is a different challenge then what you see in other sports,” Mosley said.
In addition to the vacation of records and statistics, the football team will be limited to no more than 60 official paid visits during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years. Select members of the football coaching staff will join members of the track and field program to attend a required NCAA Regional Rules Seminar within the first year of probation.
In addition to the penalties imposed on the football program, the track and field team received multiple punishments, including a limit of five international student-athletes on the roster during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 academic years. This penalty will apply to all athletic teams; however, it could significantly affect the track and field program. The roster will be trimmed to five international student-athletes through graduation, transfers and other natural means, Mosley said.
“Track historically has had up to eight or nine [international student-athletes] some years, but also has had some years where there are four or five, so we tried to sit down and look at the challenges that surround international athletes and find a number that we could manage,” Mosley said.
Head track and field coach Don Hood organized and attended holiday parties where 15 enrolled international student-athletes received gifts from representatives of the university’s athletic interests and other members of the local community.
Initially, two prospective student-athletes who were seeking admission at ACU were given running shoes prior to their enrollment. ACU saw the prospective student-athletes wearing the shoes and immediately returned them and began an internal investigation. After the investigation, the university finalized a secondary infraction report and submitted it to the Lone Star Conference office that then gave it to the NCAA.
Twelve-time NCAA national champion Nicodemus Naimadu, who graduated in December 2008, said he could not believe ACU was punished for the holiday parties that Hood organized and attended. He said the gifts were not to entice international students to remain at ACU, but to help with the pain of being so far away from home.
“I’m going to ask you to put yourself in my shoes,” said Naimadu, who is the only person in the history of the NCAA to win four consecutive national championships in cross county. “I personally haven’t been home for the last four and half years since I came here.”
Naimadu said the limitation of the number of international students would not hurt ACU’s chances of maintaining its prominence and success in the Division II track and field arena, but it may hurt the international students who come to ACU. Naimadu said while he was at ACU his biggest support was the international students who filled the roster. He said the coaches at his alma mater are good recruiters and the restrictions would only mean they would have to look for the talent necessary to carry on the tradition closer to Abilene.
“What I’m very sure of is even if all this happens ACU will continue to succeed as the best and we only have more championships to come. ”
As for Hood, Naimadu said he was one of the kindest men he had ever met and knew in his heart he did not do anything to give ACU a competitive advantage. Before Naimadu went on to win several individual titles on the national stage, he said he was contemplating transferring to another school from ACU when Hood took over the program during his freshman year in 2006.
“He personally came and talked to me and he wanted me to stay,” Naimadu said.
Hood made such an impression that Naimadu decided to stick with the school that he left his hometown of Narok, Kenya, to attend. He knew Hood was a person who not only knew track and field, but also was a good man.
“I don’t think at all he was doing this to hurt other people in an inappropriate way,” Naimadu said. “He was doing that with a loving heart. ”
While the university is still reviewing its options in the appeal process, Mosley said no further actions would be taken against the coaches involved in the violations.
“At this point, we fully support the coaches involved and continue to monitor their activities moving forward,” Mosley said.