Nov 15, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterOne of the two Central Wyoming College volleyball players whose ineligibility forced the team to vacate wins for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons has written a letter apologizing for her mistake.
In the letter, which will be published on Friday's Ranger opinion page, Brazilian athlete Leticia Guimaraes said CWC staff did not know that she had competed professionally in the Brazilian Volleyball Superleague before she moved to the United States.
According to Jason Wood, CWC's executive vice president for student and academic services, the National Junior College Athletic Association does not recognize student athletes that have participated in the BVS.
"When I was recruited to play in the U.S. by a sports agency in Brazil, Frenanda (the owner) ... always knew I had played Superliga, and her main recommendation/concern was for me not to tell it to anyone else," Guimaraes wrote. "I also got the information that most teams did this in the U.S., and it wasn't going to be a big deal."
She said she didn't realize her actions would affect the college and the team negatively.
"I thought it could be bad only for me," Guimaraes wrote. "I am truly sorry for the consequences of my wrong decision. ... I hope that CWC volleyball team (will) keep being respected and loved by CWC community."
CWC women's volleyball coach Tiffany Stauffenberg received a copy of the letter last week. She confirmed that she knew nothing about Guimaraes's ineligibility, a fact that Wood reinforced Wednesday during a CWC Board of Trustees meeting.
"I have no reason to believe we intentionally participated in trying to deceive anyone," Wood said.
An ineligible player competed in volleyball during the 2010-2011 school year, he said, while a separate ineligible player competed in 2011-12. He could not release the players' names, but he said CWC's violation fell under NJCAA criteria that states student athletes shall not participate in the BVS.
He plans to work with Stauffenberg and other athletic personnel to strengthen CWC's procedures and practices when it comes to student athletes, especially those who move to the U.S. to compete.
"(We are) auditing all student athletes in all sports," Wood said. "We hope to determine the eligibility or ineligibility for every athlete to ensure the scope of the issue is fully known and we address it as such."
He pointed out that rodeo athletes are allowed to compete professionally, while students who are recruited to four-year universities come through a clearing house that ensures they are eligible to play.
"For us, the NJCAA requires colleges do that independently," Wood said. "That's a responsibility we bear."
CWC's full report on the NJCAA violations is not yet complete, but Wood predicted official findings will be "anticlimactic." The volleyball team will be on probation through May, and Stauffenberg said she does not anticipate further penalties from the NJCAA.
Wood said athletic staff members have been addressing concerns from students and community members since the volleyball team vacated its wins last month.
"We will continue to do our best to provide answers and responses to people who make inquiries," Wood said. "The overwhelming response has been in support of student athletes, and the overwhelming response also has been in the interest of making sure we continue athletic programs at the college as a vital part of what we do."
He said volleyball players have asked about their individual statistics and eligibility for academic and athletic awards.
"Their statistics do count," Wood said. "(And) they'll remain eligible for all academic awards they could possibly earn. They also are eligible for conference athletic awards, but not regional or national athletic awards."
As a former basketball coach, Wood expressed his own support for student athletics as well.
"This situation does not damper my enthusiasm for our athletic programs," Wood said. "I think they play a viable role in ... enhancing student life on campus."
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