Currie's efforts for Romero stifled by KSU committee

5/22/2014

By KELLIS ROBINETT

By KELLIS ROBINETT

The Wichita Eagle

MANHATTAN (MCT) — Kansas State athletic director John Currie is working to grant Leticia Romero a conditional release from her basketball scholarship, but that isn't enough for Romero.

She won't be satisfied until she is allowed to seek a transfer to one of the 94 schools she has been blocked from contacting since requesting a release last month.

Currie took to a step toward helping Romero on May 5 when he wrote a letter to K-State's appeals committee, led by K-State Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco, asking it to reconsider its ruling to deny Romero a release from her athletic scholarship.

But in a statement released Wednesday just after 8 p.m., Jeffery Morris, Vice-President for Communications and Marketing at Kansas State University, clarified the university's stance, and it apparently means that Romero will not be granted a conditional release by KSU.

The release stated:

"Recent media reports may have created the impression that the university is reconsidering student athlete Leticia Romero's request for a transfer. The news reports are based on an apparent photo of a confidential letter from Athletic Director John Currie to Pat Bosco, vice president for student life at Kansas State University.

Under university policy, the Appeals Committee's decision is final and binding, and there is no university procedure to reexamine one of those decisions. Thus, the university process concludes with the Appeals Committee's decision. Also, the final and binding nature of these decisions does not allow for them to be overturned by university administrators.

The transfer release and appeal policy of the department of intercollegiate athletics is included in the handbook provided to every student athlete at Kansas State University:

Except for the most compelling of circumstances, which place an undue burden on the student athlete, it is the policy of the department of intercollegiate athletics not to grant a release for purposes of a transfer or provide the one-time transfer exception (NCAA Bylaw 14.5.5.2.10).

A scholarship student athlete who seeks a transfer from Kansas State University, to another institution for the purpose of continuing athletic participation at that institution, must receive a release from the director of athletics prior to contact with athletics representatives of other institutions (NCAA Bylaw 13.1.1.3). A student athlete may seek a release through the sport administrator of his/her team.

If a student's request for transfer is denied, the student will be notified in writing of his/her right to appeal (NCAA Bylaw 14.5.5.2.10.1) and the steps necessary to request the hearing. The hearing will take place in front of an Appeals Committee to be assembled by the vice president of student life and comprised of individuals from the institution's main campus and outside of athletics. The ruling of the Appeals Committee is final and binding."âã

In the letter obtained by The Kansas City Star, Currie wrote he had concerns about tampering from K-State's former women's basketball coaching staff. But new information eased those concerns. Currie also wrote: "Although it is unprecedented, I believe that is in the student-athlete's best interest for the committee to reconvene to consider this new information and potentially approve her request for a conditional transfer release."

Romero, from Las Palmas, Spain, was the Wildcats' top player a year ago. As a freshman, she led the team with 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 32.6 minutes per game. She was chosen Big 12 freshman of the week four times.

She asked for a release from her scholarship shortly after K-State fired coach Deb Patterson and hired Jeff Mittie as her replacement. Romero decided her playing style wasn't a good fit with her new coach, and submitted to K-State's compliance office a list of 94 schools from 13 conferences, including Wichita State. But her request was denied by K-State officials. She then appealed that ruling before a committee last month, and was again denied.

In his letter to the appeals committee, Currie wrote that Mittie is ready to move on without Romero and that her former teammates no longer have a desire to play with her. He thought it would be in everyone's best interest to grant Romero a conditional release.

Earlier this month, Patterson was hired as an assistant coach by new Northern Colorado coach Kamie Ethridge, a former K-State assistant. Ethridge's staff also includes former Wildcats assistants Shalee Lehning, as associate head coach, and Kelly Moylan. Romero told Currie she won't transfer to Northern Colorado.

Without a scholarship release, Romero can still enroll at another school, but she won't be eligible for an athletic scholarship for a year.

Romero's attorney, Donald Jackson of The Sports Group in Montgomery, Ala., said K-State has recently allowed two schools outside Romero's list to contact her about a transfer. But he said Romero only has interest in the 94 schools on her initial list.

"She had never heard of the two schools that reached out to her," Jackson said.

by phone. "They were both low majors."

She wants to continue playing at the highest level of college basketball."

Jackson also questioned why Currie needed help to overturn the ruling of K-State's appeals committee. Jackson said he contacted K-State president Kirk Schulz on Monday and asked him to overturn the decision.

"They determined that there was no tampering involved whatsoever," Jackson said. "Now their position is that (Currie) can't change the decision, because of the fact that this committee made a decision on it. That is absolutely incorrect. He is basically saying, 'I don't have any proof that there was tampering, but the committee made its decision based on the belief that there was tampering so I can't change it.'

"He is taking a very disingenuous and dishonest stance. There was apparently a belief that she wanted to follow the previous staff. The reality is that she said from the beginning she had no desire to follow them to Northern Colorado. This was an attempt to force her to stay at Kansas State when she didn't want to stay at Kansas State.

"This is an athletic director attempting to bully a young woman who is thousands of miles away from home."

Jackson said K-State has mishandled Romero's transfer process by rushing the date of her appeals hearing, making it impossible for her parents to attend, and failing to record audio of the hearing.

"This has been an intentional effort to avoid affording her due process," Jackson said. "It has been an intentional effort to harass her and deny her rights as a student-athlete. They perceive her as being alone and isolated and away from home . . . This is one of the worst examples of a denial of due process that I have ever seen."

Romero's fight to transfer has made national headlines. ESPN's "Outside the Lines" featured her during its 2 p.m. broadcast Wednesday. During the broadcast, Romero said she met with Currie after her transfer appeal was denied. But she said he told her there was little he could do to help her on the matter.

"What he said was, 'I want you to be released,"' Romero told "Outside the Lines." "Coach Mittie wants you to be released. The athletic department wants you to be released. But now this is not on my hands. It's in the committee's hands. I can't do anything about it.""

Romero did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. K-State athletic officials have denied comment, citing student privacy laws.

Jackson said he hoped to have discussions with Currie and Schulz in the coming week about Romero. He is cautiously optimistic K-State will grant her a release from her scholarship.

"At a certain point the administration and the school have to realize there is no real basis for punishing this young woman, because she wants to transfer," Jackson said. "Common sense and human decency should set in."

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