Students speak out on athletic probation: what comes next?

Reanna Comiso, Features Editor

Student-athletes spend all year working towards the same end goal. Each one wishes to reach their potential, win championship games and represent their team to the best of his or her ability. That goal has now become an unachievable reality for many College of DuPage students.

The National Junior College Athletics Association placed all COD athletic teams on probation for the 2018-2019 season on Aug. 31. Under the probation, teams lost the ability to partake in post-season games and championships.

The probation does not halt the regular season, but a chance at a championship win has been removed completely. “The (second-year students) as a whole team put in so much work, but now they do not get the payoff of going to the championships,” said Courtney King, a freshman basketball player.

An internal audit from an outside law firm revealed some student-athletes did not provide required documentation under NJCAA regulations. While the violations were not deemed as academic fraud, the consequence placed a burden on student-athletes around campus.

The news came as a surprise, with student-athletes learning of the probation only one day before COD President Ann Rondeau released an official statement. Some athletes felt hurt and disappointed. Other athletes remain hopeful. In all cases, the athletes were completely shocked. “It gave me a different view of the school,” said Zach Bertram, a COD student and football player.

New athletic director Greg McVey announced the probation to student athletes on Aug. 30. “They broke the news to us as soon as practice was done,” said Bertram. “It was very late notice. They could have at least told us (ahead of time).”

Bertram was not the only one who questioned the timing. “They were saying that (the administration) had an idea (of the probation),” said Nathan Schiefelbein, a COD track and cross country athlete. “They knew they had this coming.” Schiefelbein felt disappointed he wasn’t informed of the possible probation earlier.

The NCJAA gives students 15 days from the start of the school year to decide if they want to take part in a sport. The timing of COD’s announcement gave athletes two business days to decide if they wanted to join a sports team at another school.

In those two days, students had to decide if they wanted to transfer to a different school. They then needed to register at another school, many of which are already in session. Athletes would be entering their classes and athletic programs late, already placing them behind their peers.

In Rondeau’s official schoolwide statement, she said the school would provide support to each student affected by the probation. Students interviewed said that assistance is focused on getting the affected athletes out of COD.

“They say they are going to help us, but what they mean is that they want to help us transfer,” said Ricky Deltoro, a cross country athlete at COD. “It is just not enough time… it is impossible.”

After the news broke, several students left the school to pursue their athletics elsewhere, though official numbers are unknown at this time.

Any amount of assistance would not remove all the burdens of the probation. For students in their last year at COD, the 2018-2019 postseason could have been their last chance at snagging state and national titles.  

“I was looking forward to going to state for my last year,” said Schiefelbein. “It sucks because you had your goals, you wanted the title.”

For certain sports like track and cross country, students have the opportunity to run as an individual rather than with a school. This allows students to still have a chance at winning titles or earning a personal best. For team sports, the athletes are not as lucky.

Football and volleyball championship games and competitions can be crucial for further recruitment of the athletes. Many rely on these games to make an impression on scouts and increase their chances of landing scholarships.  “For most teams, they feel there is no reason to play this season,” said Elijah Addison, a football player at COD.

Football players can still make an impression on recruiters, but have to plan ahead. “The big bowl game has a lot of (outside) coaches that come there,” said Bertram.  “It is going to be a minor setback for some kids saying ‘you are going to have to come see me during the season rather than the end game.’”

Despite the probation, athletes are trying to stay positive in this situation.

“It is unfortunate,’’ said Addison. “I was excited, but it is what it is…we still have to work hard and compete.”

Athletes like Bertram are also trying to make the most of the probation by playing his best during the rest of the season. “It hurts a little bit, but we are going to take full advantage and not let this affect us during the season,” said Bertram. “No matter what we do, we can still get through it.”

The probation is in place for the remainder of this year. Teams hope they can rectify the situation and come back stronger next year, with new regulations implemented in order to avoid this situation from repeating.