K-State Clears Leticia Romero's Transfer

Sorry, just tired of using the same photo for these articles. - Jamie McDonald

John Currie amended K-State's student-athlete transfer policy today, using the new provision to grant Leticia Romero a release to transfer to non-Big 12 schools. The self-congratulatory national media wants you to believe they deserve the credit, but most of them still don't understand what happened.

In a letter today to K-State President Kirk Schulz, athletic director John Currie proposed an amendment to K-State's student-athlete transfer policy. The amendment allows the athletic director to overrule the institutional appeals committee where the appeals committee has denied the student-athlete a release to transfer*.

*More accurately, permission to contact and to receive financial aid at another institution. But we're going to use release to transfer here.

By doing so, K-State either did the right thing, the wrong thing, or finally realized it was standing around with its pants down. The national media immediately kicked the self-pleasuring machine into high gear, convinced it was responsible for gaining Romero her release from big, bad K-State. It was an impressive display of masturbatory self-congratulation, considering most of the congratulators still have a better understanding of advanced physics than they do the applicable NCAA bylaws.

Now let's be clear. K-State should have released Romero when she initially applied for her release. Romero's initial appeal was denied because the athletic department was concerned the former, fired coaching staff had tampered with Romero by using her to get jobs at another institution. And in normal circumstances, I'd be fine with a conditional release that restricted Romero from transferring to wherever Patterson and Co. ended up.

But most of the chattering class doesn't acknowledge that, under NCAA rules, that wasn't possible in this case. Understanding would require difficult work, like asking questions of people who know what they're talking about. And reading NCAA Bylaws. It's much easier to leave the nice, tidy narrative unchallenged. And a lot of dumb people who haven't read anything else about the situation will join the off-key chorus.

But the real world is rarely so neat and tidy. Under NCAA rules, K-State had seven business days to respond to Romero's initial transfer request (NCAA Bylaw 13.1.1.3). K-State's institutional appeals committee had 15 business days to hear and decide Romero's appeal (NCAA Bylaw 13.1.1.3.1).

K-State's institutional appeals committee denied Romero's appeal on April 18th. So most likely, Romero applied for a transfer in late March, and her initial request was denied in early April. Deb Patterson was fired on March 9th. Kamie Etheridge was hired by Northern Colorado on April 28th, with Patterson and Shalee Lehning joining the staff on May 12th.

It would have been nice and simple if Patterson, Etheridge and Lehning had been safely ensconced in their next job by the time NCAA bylaws required Romero's request and appeal be decided. K-State could have denied permissions to contact Romero to the school that hired the old coaching staff and released her to all other non-Big 12 schools. But that wasn't the case.

So why didn't Currie or Schulz step in and unilaterally grant Romero her release? The national pundits shouted for this at every opportunity. Because simpletons who don't know the rules want someone to do something. Thanks, Obama. Or Blame Bush.

These NCAA bylaws -- rules whose purpose in this case is to protect student-athletes -- do not specify that athletics personnel can overrule the appeals committee. The appeals committee must comprise non-athletics personnel. The purpose is to give the student-athlete a fair hearing in front of people without a vested interest in the outcome.

But the rules had a blind spot in this case. The idea is that the initial request may be denied unjustly and an appeals committee comprising athletics personnel would be nothing but a rubber-stamp. But in this case, Currie changed his mind and wanted the request granted. It would have been advantageous for Romero in this case if NCAA bylaws specified that Currie could have unilaterally reversed the appeals committee.

Now he can. But he needed a process to do so. A process that no other school in the Big 12 has in place.*

*As far as I can tell. Iowa State doesn't have a student-athlete handbook on its Web site, and the link to Oklahoma's handbook is broken.

Process is a meaningless abstract to the Professional Outrage Society. They want something done, process be damned. Process is just a meaningless bureaucratic apparatus, something that should have been followed when it wasn't or ignored when it was.

Process is so meaningless that every corporation in the world pays money to people to draft processes for them to follow. The people in this world who love money more than life itself pay people inside (or outside) their business to draft processes that will protect them from liability or from violating government regulations. Process is so meaningless that John Currie took one of his paid employees, or one of K-State's attorneys, away from their other paid work to find a solution to this situation.

K-State's athletic department did not cover itself in glory here. Those responsible for denying Romero's request chose to punish a former coaching staff and risk a public relations disaster. Five years ago, they probably escape unscathed. Now student-athlete issues occupy a platform not previously seen, thanks to the O'Bannon lawsuit, the unionization movement and impending autonomy for power conference schools. And someone in the department learned the value of copy-and-paste.

But you can safely ignore the outrage professionals. They were right, but for the wrong reasons. Every once in a while, I'd choose the right answer on a multiple-choice test written in Mandarin, too.

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