Oct 26, 2012 - By Steven R. PeckCentral Wyoming College is on the right track in responding to an embarrassment
There is no way to put a good face on Thursday's disclosure that Central Wyoming College has been banned from postseason volleyball competition, placed on probation by the governing body of junior college sports, and ordered to vacate every match it won on the volleyball court since 2010.
But this is not the end of the world, either.
CWC was found to have used an ineligible player, apparently because she had played professionally, in violation of National Junior College Athletic Association rules. It wasn't just for a game or two, but for "multiple years," according to the college's statement on the sanctions.
The NJCAA takes that violation very seriously, as evidenced by the severe penalties imposed. The Rustlers had built a record of 63 wins and 35 losses over the past three seasons. Officially, that record now is 0-98.
This is embarrassing for the volleyball program and, by extension, for the college. Round-ball sports had been discontinued in the 1990s and were reinstated seven years ago only after intense and sometimes contentious discussion about the value and role of sports on campus.
Most would agree that the resurrected Rustler volleyball and basketball programs have proved their worth, but this has not been a happy week for either (the volleyball team's impressive home victory over Casper College notwithstanding). Men's basketball coach Curtis Condie is now in his third week of unexplained leave from his team, whose season starts Thursday. That absence originally had been set for just one week. And now comes the shock of the volleyball sanctions, which slam the door on a promising postseason for the team and raises serious questions about the future.
For its part, the CWC administration so far is doing exactly what it ought to -- announcing the penalties voluntarily, acknowledging the infractions, checking into an appeal of part of the penalty where appropriate, and ordering an internal investigation of what went wrong, and how.
Central to that inquiry are two related questions: Was this an accident brought on by naivety, unwarranted trust and inattention? Or was it a willful and deliberate act intended to give the Rustlers an advantage they weren't entitled to?
Neither answer would make the program look good, but the former would be considerably less serious than the latter as the program moves forward.
And move forward it should. Sports naysayers no doubt will rattle their sabers anew following these infractions and penalties. CWC already has said that additional "institutional sanctions" might be warranted once the investigation is complete. Including an outside investigator or auditor of the inquiry process might be worth considering to avoid any appearance of cronyism among investigators and subjects of the investigation whose offices are right down the hall from one another.
Meanwhile, unflattering revelations about a sports team don't change the view on campus of the sparkling new health/science center being built adjacent to the gym where the Rustlers play. They don't detract from the great performance of the CWC women's rodeo team at this year's National College Finals Rodeo. They don't dampen the enthusiasm over the college's just-completed stage production of "The Odd Couple," or the excitement of the coming election to choose members of the board of trustees.
The sun came up on campus Friday. Students filed into class, professors shared their expertise, staff maintained the handsome grounds, executives planned for the future, and CWC continued on its well-established path as one of Fremont County's great and important institutions.
There will be damage --to recruiting, reputation and team morale. Eventually, however, that erosion can be repaired, the slate wiped clean. The program was restarted from a 15-year standstill in 2004. With a proper response and remedy, it can withstand this as well.
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