With her kids grown, Hollister resident Marie Brown decided that her house was just too empty. So she called a friend to help her place an ad, seeking tenants.
Within less than a month, the Gavilan College football players who had moved in to Brown’s house were kicked off the team for violating recruiting rules.
The 17 male football players were accused by Gavilan Athletic Director Ron Hannon, of breaking recruiting rules by receiving prohibited transportation, housing, food and benefits. Instead of practicing football for the coming season as planned, they were promptly sent home in the first week of Setember.
Brown explained in a phone interview Sept. 8 how it all began. “My friend helped me put “room for rent” on the internet,” Brown said. “Then, she (the friend) called me and asked, ‘Are college kids okay?’” Brown recalled.
“I said, ‘Sure.’” Brown said.
Brown, who is a 68 year-old attorney in Hollister, said over a few weeks time the number of housemates gradually increased, “I had two and then I had four.” Eventually, she said, it got up to “10 or more” college-age kids staying at her house. Brown said all the male athletes were African American except one.
“Good, nice young men,” Brown said about the “boys”. “It is sad to me. I’m sick to my stomach about it,” she told BenitoLink. Brown said that if the school were more focused on the kids and less on the regulations, it might have turned out differently.
Explaining the issue from the community college’s point of view, Jan Bernstein Chargin, Gavilan Director of Public Information said, “Athletes can’t derive a benefit because they’re on the football team.”
Bernstein Chargin provided the specific bylaws:
“The specific violations involved recruiting and benefits, specifically the following Bylaws of the CCCAA Constitution:
• 2.5.5: Out-of-state recruiting is prohibited except upon written approval by the CCCAA Board.
• 2.11: …Subsidization in any manner by the college or individuals or groups acting in the interest of the college is not permitted… examples of service of financial assistance which would be prohibited include….
• 2.11.2B: The paying for, the providing of, the pre-payment with expectations of reimbursement, the providing at less than actual cost of the waiving of a prospect’s student-athlete’s tuition, fees, housing, meals, books, supplies, transportation, student body cards, laundry services, clothing, groceries, telephone calls, etc
• 2.11.2C: The obtaining, securing, or soliciting of housing for a prospect/student-athlete that is not available to all students at the community college.”
Bernstein Chargin said the school held a two and a half hour “Eligibility Meeting” for the athletes at the school on Aug. 7.
She explained that, acting on a phone call from a concerned parent, Gavilan College hired an outside investigator who came back reporting the living situation at Brown’s home as “in violation” and in direct conflict with California Community College Athletics Associate (CCCAA) recruiting rules.
Bernstein Chargin said that when following recruiting rules, “it has to be the same arrangement available to these students as it would be if they were not athletes.”
As a grandmother, Brown felt she was treating the young men like she would any college student. She told BenitoLink that her grandson stayed with her in a similar arrangement when he went to Hartnell College. Eventually, he moved out to complete his education at Humboldt.
Brown said the young men staying with her pitched in financially, buying four bunk beds, eight mattresses and a futon. She said the college asked if she bought groceries, which she had. But she said the young men also purchased groceries.
“They bought lots of chili beans, canned green beans, rice, tomato paste, stuff like that and with that I would cook up chili and spaghetti, hot dogs and cornbread,” she said. Some of the athletes also pitched in on the cooking.
“Nobody asked me, but I used their food too! For most of these kids, it was their first time away from home,” she said. They lived and ate together at Brown’s home about a month when they were notified they were violating the rules.
Now, one assistant coach has resigned and two staff members have been suspended by the community college while it continues an investigation. It is unclear whether the school discussed appropriate housing arrangements with the athletes early on.
Gavilan’s news release about the incident stated, “Dean Ron Hannon will also be conducting additional in-service training with the football coaching staff. Each coach will be required to be recertified with the CCCAA prior to any additional recruiting activities.” According to the school, there are 66 players still on the football team.
“I put kids through college, I know what it costs. Their parents paid for them to come out here,” Brown said. “A lot of focus was on the politics instead of having to do with the kids and where they need to be. And then they hand them a ticket home.
They had such high expectations. It is very sad,” said Brown.
According to Bernstein Chargin, all 17 athletes were offered the opportunity to stay on to take classes at Gavilan, though they would not be allowed compete in sports. None of them accepted the offer and all went home, this time, on Gavilan’s dime.
Reporter’s note: Gavilan’s football team is 0-2 on the season after a 14-9 loss to Redwoods on Saturday, Sept. 9.