Stripped Football Titles Slammed as Unfair
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - A California community college says it was never given a chance to defend itself before it was stripped of its football titles and banned for two years.
Bakersfield College, part of the Kern Community College District, describes its football team in the complaint as "a source of pride for the school, the district and the community." In addition to three playoff victories among many excellent seasons, the team has seen several of its athletes turn pro, according to the complaint in Sacramento County Superior Court.
The school says it self-reported the violations that led to its sanctions in keeping with bylaws of the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA) that require colleges to report any possible infraction or violation within two business days.
It had opened the 2013 investigation upon receiving an informal inquiry from Southern California Football Association (SCFA), according to the complaint.
Bakersfield's report involved claims that the school made work, housing and meal opportunities available to football players and not the entire student population.
Though such findings were subject to change as the investigation continued, the SCFA allegedly imposed sanctions and penalties a mere week after receiving the report.
The SCFA's report from commissioner Jim Sartoris meanwhile "eliminated mitigating factors in the college's self-report and expanded the number and type of alleged violations against the college," according to the complaint.
Bakersfield said Sartoris added findings that Bakersfield Coach Jeff Chudy "induced unnamed recruits from outside the college's recruiting area with employment opportunities and housing assistance." Sartoris is not a party to the complaint.
The commissioner's report also allegedly "added findings that several, unidentified athletes on the 2011 and 2012 football teams were 'ineligible' for athletic competition."
Though Sartoris also cited Bakersfield for "long-standing violations of the CCCAA bylaws," the college says he "failed to identify any evidence supporting his findings."
As punishment for these alleged violations, the CCCAA stripped the Bakersfield football team of its conference and post-conference victories in 2011 and 2012, excluded it from the 2013 playoffs and put the team on probation until 2015.
Bakersfield claims, however, that it was never given a "meaningful opportunity to challenge the adjudication of guilt or the penalties and sanctions."
"While the CCCAA constitution and bylaws promise the colleges and their athletic programs 'due process' and 'fairness of procedures' in the administration of sanctions and penalties, the actual procedures utilized by the CCCAA and its agents and affiliates do not comport with any legally recognized concept of due process or fair procedure," the complaint continues.
The sanctions also allegedly violate the CCCAA's own bylaws, which state that it can only impose one year of probation. Furthermore only the colleges, conference commissioners and the athletic association's board have the power to strip football championships, whereas CCCAA executive director Carlyle Carter imposed that punishment, according to the complaint.
Carter is not a party to the complaint.
Bakersfield College says it immediately appealed the decision, but that the CCCAA denied its request for a hearing. The association also allegedly failed to file a written decision on the appeal, in violation of the school's rights to due process and fair procedure.
"During this process, defendants failed to disclose any legally competent evidence on which their decisions relied," the complaint states.
The CCCAA has allegedly ignored Bakersfield's demands to see the evidence supporting the penalties and sanctions decisions.
Executive Director Carter also did not reveal who sat on the binding arbitration panel because he "was actively attempting to recruit binding arbitration panelists at the time who might be chosen to preside over the appeal of his own decision," according to the complaint.
Carter, the CCCAA executive director, would not comment beyond saying that the association had received the summons on Friday.
Bakersfield, the Kern district, Coach Chudy and football player Joey Stuart are the plaintiffs. They want an injunction and order against the CCCAA's decision, as well as $25,000 in damages for breach of contract and violations of the common-law doctrine of fair procedure.
The plaintiffs are represented by C. Christine Maloney with Foster Employment Law of Oakland.
CCCAA and the SCFA are the only named defendants.