Coaches deny hoop recruiting violations

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An assistant basketball coach facing questions of illegally recruiting two New York players denied the charges to conference investigators and insisted the players approached him first about playing at Southwestern College.

Associate coach Kyle Colwell “told the players that there were special rules for recruiting and he could not share details with them,”according to a brief report titled “Southwestern Basketball Investigation – First Contact Violation,” conducted in May by the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference. SWC Athletic Director Terry Davis said the PCAC found no evidence of wrongdoing by the SWC basketball coaching staff.

Colwell’s statements to the PCAC conflicts with recorded interviews given by former SWC basketball players Keenan Langston and David Warren, who insisted they were recruited to play at SWC by Colwell after a high school game in Brooklyn.

Warren and Langston said Colwell kept in touch with them and convinced them to register at SWC and fly to California to become Jaguars. Colwell has refused to speak to The Sun about the charges. Head basketball coach John Cosentino has also repeatedly refused to comment. Davis insisted the charges are false, but refused to speak to staff members of The Sun about specifics.

Warren and Langston approached a sports writer from The Sun last semester after they learned they were declared ineligible because of failure to attend classes and pay out-of-state tuition. Both players said they were disappointed to be kicked off the team because they had been recruited to attend SWC and had endured great sacrifice and expense to relocate to San Diego County.

Athletics administrative assistant Peggy Ball said California community colleges are not allowed to recruit outside their immediate districts, much less out of state, information confirmed by the PCAC. Under conference rules, “only an out-of-recruiting area student can make first person-to-person contact with a community college.” Coaches are not permitted to make first contact.

Warren and Langston insisted they were contacted by Colwell. SWC’s athletic department claims to have first contact forms signed by Warren and Langston, but both players said they signed the forms later because coaches directed them to. Both players said they had no knowledge of SWC until Colwell approached them in New York.

Warren and Langston said Colwell approached them after a game during summer 2011. Langston and Warren signed first contact forms (Form C) on October 10, 2011 and September 14, 2011, respectively, after basketball activities had begun at SWC. According to California Community College Athletic Association bylaws, Form C student contact record contact paperwork must be signed by prospective players at the time of contact.

SWC Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathy Tyner said the “proper sanction” would be applied if evidence of illegal recruiting was found, but insisted that the PCAC had the primary responsibility to look into the allegations.

According to the PCAC investigation, conference officials interviewed Colwell and Warren by telephone. Langston, according to the PCAC report, hung up on the investigator when he called him in New York. Colwell was quoted by the PCAC investigator as saying that he had family in New York and was visiting last summer. He went to a park with friends (including club coaches) to watch basketball games. Mo Kirby, an official, along with several athletes, approached Colwell, according to the report.

Colwell told the players he was from “Southwestern College in San Diego” and told the players “there were special rules for recruiting.” Colwell is quoted in the report as saying that an SWC women’s basketball player named YaYa who “lives next door to Mr. Warren talked to (Warren) about Southwestern.” Colwell told the PCAC investigator that Warren and Langston contacted him via text or phone and that “they exchanged information over the next few months.”

Langston, in a recorded interview, told a very different story.

“[Colwell] came to New York and he was recruiting players,” said Langston. “He told me after the game that he wants me to come out there and play basketball, telling me it was a good school and I would like it. He said ‘we would love to have you come out to our school.’ He was talking to me every day.”

Intervention by YaYa in New York may make her an “agent” according to CCCAA regulations, which is not allowed. CCCAA Constitutional Bylaw 2.2.2 reads “an agent is anyone (college staff member, parent, relative, friend) whose actions are designed to benefit a certain athletic program.” CCCAA Bylaws also contain the clause “coaches or representatives may not mingle with out-of-recruiting area participants at any time before, during or after the contest.”

Warren told the conference investigator he never talked with The Sun about being recruited to SWC, but in February he gave two recorded interviews to The Sun.

“Coach Kyle came to New York to watch Keenan play,” said Warren in one recorded interview. “It just so happens that the day he came to watch him play, I was playing against him and he liked the way I played. He asked me to come [to Southwestern College]too.”

Colwell was quoted in the PCAC report saying that before the players came to SWC he spoke to their parents about the rules regarding recruitment. Keenan Langston, Sr., father of the player, emphatically denied that in an interview with The Sun.

“I’ve never spoken to Colwell,” said Langston Sr.

Davis was contacted several times by a reporter from The Sun to comment on the subject and he hung up on the reporter twice. Davis said he would only speak to journalism professor Dr. Max Branscomb about basketball recruiting issues. Branscomb said he told Davis that he needed to speak directly to student journalists from The Sun if he wished to comment on the record about the allegations.

John Cosentino, SWC athletic coordinator and men’s basketball head coach, also hung up on a student journalist and refused to comment when approached in the gymnasium. He also closed the gymnasium to the photographers from The Sun assigned to take pictures for a pre-season basketball article. Davis told a photographer from The Sun that she could photograph practice the next day, but Cosentino cancelled the practice session.

A reporter from The Sun called the athletic department several times to request documents provided by the PCAC. Davis released some documents related to the PCAC investigation, but refused to release others. The Sun filed a documents request under the California Records Act which college personnel complied with.

SWC Superintendent Dr. Melinda Nish said she has not spoken directly to Davis about allegations of illegal recruiting, but said she was aware of the situation.

“My contact has been with the Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathy Tyner,” said Nish. “I know that she was working with [Davis] to make sure that we don’t have any issue with eligibility because that’s what this really boils down to, determining whether or not those players were eligible and there’s some pretty strict eligibility requirements for student athletes.”

Langston and Warren played in eight games last season they were not eligible for because the athletic department failed to check their eligibility. Four of those games were wins and were later forfeited, which caused the team to miss the playoffs. SWC’s athletic department, including the athletic coordinator Cosentino, is responsible for checking student athletes’ eligibility every week.

Tyner said she talked to Davis about the PCAC investigation after The Sun published articles in March and May about possible recruiting violations.

“In terms of going through the entire investigation, the coaches were definitely contacted, but I didn’t contact them,” said Tyner. “It was being handled by an outside agency. I think when there are instances like this and you have an oversight agency you need to let them handle it and do what they do. There’s no favoritism, they go by the book and they determine whether there’s an issue or not. If they’re the agency that’s supposed to ensure that things are done fairly, then they have their own protocols as to how they go through the investigation.”

Tyner said her interpretation of the conference report is that the PCAC found no evidence of wrongdoing. When she was informed about ineligible athletes playing during the spring 2012 season, she said she would speak with Davis about it.

Warren’s statements to the PCAC differed from his recorded interview with The Sun last semester. Warren is quoted in the PCAC report saying he learned about SWC from a “female friend in the neighborhood” and that he approached Colwell at a park. He is quoted by the PCAC investigator as saying that Colwell told him the location of Southwestern College, but few other details. According to the report, he denied speaking to The Sun about any recruiting details.

Warren told The Sun last semester that he would not return to SWC to play this season. He is quoted by the PCAC investigator as saying that he “may return to Southwestern” for the 2012-13 season. He is not currently enrolled.

Langston said last semester that he hoped to return, but said in a September telephone interview that he would not be returning. When asked about the recruiting controversy he immediately hung up.

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