The Monroe College Athletics Department was heavily sanctioned in 2011 by the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) due to violations of the NJCAA Letter of Intent program. As a result of the sanctions, the NJCAA took away a total of 52 scholarships in six sports over a two year period. The sanctions will end in 2013.
An NJCAA Letter of Intent is a legally binding agreement that a student-athlete is bound to a particular institution for a period of one year. A signee of an NJCAA Letter of Intent counts towards the overall maximum number of individuals in that sport regardless of the amount of athletic scholarship. Failing to file LOIs with the NJCAA would allow a member institution to circumvent scholarship limits.
The Monroe College Men’s baseball program was reduced to 14 scholarships from 24 for two years. The Monroe College Men’s basketball was reduced to 11 scholarships from 15 for one year. The Monroe College Men’s soccer program was reduced to 10 scholarships from 18 for two years. The Monroe College Women’s basketball was educed to 9 scholarships from 15 for one year. The Monroe College Softball was reduced to 22 scholarships from 24 for one year. The Monroe College Women’s volleyball program was reduced to 10 scholarships from 14 for one year.
The NJCAA does not announce disciplinary actions against members nor does it require members to announce disciplinary actions against themselves.
Monroe College only made a statement about the rules violations 10 months after the sanctions went into effect. The statement was provided to Talk of the Sound in response to inquiries related to the news web site's investigation into an incident last fall involving an altercation between two players and a loaded .9mm semi-automatic carbine. The team's coach was fired following the incident.
In response to inquires by Talk of the Sound, the NJCAA would only confirm that there had been an unspecified number of violations of the NJCAA Letter of Intent program involving six sports.
"The NJCAA sanctioned Monroe College in October 2011 due to violations of the NJCAA Letter of Intent program in the sports of baseball, men’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and volleyball," said NJCAA Assistant Executive Director Mark Krug in response to a written inquiry. "Per NJCAA policies that is all I am permitted to share with you. Any questions regarding this should be directed to Monroe College Athletic Director Bert Shillingford."
Krug later added that Monroe College was not put on probation as a result of the violations.
In response to inquires by Talk of the Sound, Monroe College Communications Coordinator & Assistant to the Executive Vice President Megan McCarthy issued a statement on behalf of Monroe College Vice President of Administration David E. Dimond and Monroe College Executive Vice President Marc Jerome:
"As explained by the NJCAA, Monroe College was sanctioned in October 2011 due to violations of the NJCAA Letter of Intent program in the sports of baseball, men’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and volleyball. Colleges are required to submit letters of intent to the NJCAA for every athlete who receives an athletic scholarship. Due to a clerical error, Monroe College was delayed in meeting the deadline to electronically submit the original Grant-in-Aid to the NJCAA National Office. As a result, the College has been required to decrease the number of scholarships awarded to student-athletes in the sports previously mentioned. The penalty went into effect in the 2011-2012 seasons and, for baseball and men’s soccer only, will continue into the 2012-2013 seasons before being lifted. Monroe College did not receive any other financial penalties."
McCarthy denied that the sanctions were the result of a “wholesale failure” of Monroe College to comply with the NJCAA Letter of Intent program.
"We have always done LOIs for our scholarship athletes," said McCarthy. "In that particular year, we simply and inadvertently posted some of the LOIs after the deadline. Most of them, in fact, were posted on time. When we realized our mistake, we took it upon ourselves to notify the NJCAA. We have complied with their sanctions and have taken steps to ensure that all LOIs are posted on time in the future."
The Monroe College home page has recently been promoting the school's athletic program with a photo of players from the baseball team with the tagline "13 teams, 8 championships, 1 National Title. The most impressive part? That was just last year."
The promotion does not mention that 6 of those 13 teams are currently under NJCAA sanctions, that the baseball team depicted in the promotion was the hardest hit with a total loss of 20 scholarships over two years and that the national title was won by a team initially run by a coach fired after allegedly failing to report that one of his players was in possession of a semi-automatic rifle on the school's New Rochelle campus.
Talk of the Sound first learned of the sanctions while investigating a criminal matter involving a players on the women's basketball team.
Shortly after the sanctions began, New Rochelle Police confiscated a loaded .9mm semi-automatic carbine from a player on the Monroe College women's basketball team. As the result of the incident the player was kicked off the team and expelled, another player was suspended and Seth Goodman, the team's head coach, was fired.
Monroe College has had problems with its Athletic Department in the past.
In 2003, the New York Daily News reported on problems with the Monroe College Men's Basketball program.
"The school lost its home court, Lehman College, after a terrifying episode in which a shotgun-waving former student barged into practice, accusing an unidentified player of inappropriate behavior toward his girlfriend…And then there are the eligibility questions surrounding standout point guard Kingsley Edwards, who registered for the 2002-03 school year at Globe last August, and then enrolled at Monroe - without withdrawing from Globe."
The paper reported that Globe coach Ken Wilcox filed a complaint with NJCAA and was quoted saying "Monroe likes to project this image that they're above it all, above the whole junior-college scene, and they're not. They're very much in the middle of it."
The junior-college circuit has long been regarded as the netherworld of college basketball, a level where players change schools the way people change socks, academic records are murky and supervision is often scarce.
While there is no evidence of wrongdoing at Monroe, a season of unprecedented success has done little to discourage the perception of JUCO sports as the wild frontier of college athletics.
"In the zest to win, some people will do whatever it takes," says Charles Jackson, coach of FIT, who had a successful seven-year run at Monroe before being fired last year. A coach at one of the 19 junior-colleges in the city and surrounding New York counties estimates that 40% of JUCO coaches nationally engage in overt cheating, whether by doctoring academic records or funneling money or perks to get players. Locally, he puts the number at 20%.
"It's very dog-eat-dog at the JUCO level, because there aren't many rules," agrees Wilcox.
According to the NJCAA web site, the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) was founded in 1938 and is an association of community college and junior college athletic departments throughout the United States. It is held as Divisions and Regions. The current NJCAA holds 24 separate regions. Members eligible to join the NJCAA shall consist of two year colleges and institutions accredited by the appropriate state and/or regional accrediting agency. As members, they shall be entitled to all the privileges and obligations of the Constitution, By-laws and executive regulations of the Association.
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