The 2019 team and coaching staff gather for a group picture after a home victory over the Fullerton College Hornets, 69-65, which clinched the Orange Empire Conference championship. (saddlebackgauchos.com)
Saddleback College’s Mens Basketball won the OEC title this year, going 10-2 in conference and beating Fullerton College in the final game of the season to claim a spot as co-champions of the conference. But celebrations over their victory would be short-lived, despite their accomplishment, the team would not be competing in the postseason.
The basketball team’s suspension went unnoticed last spring when it was first handed down; neither the Lariat or the Saddleback athletics site made mention of it at the time. The only information publicly available was one sentence on the Saddleback athletics site buried in their announcement of the basketball team’s winning of the conference title.
Over the course of reporting on this article, I attempted to contact numerous people within the Saddleback athletics department, the OEC and the CCCAA. Many of these attempts led nowhere; I either received no response or was told that the majority of the details of the suspension were unable to discussed.
The lack of information regarding the suspension begs a few questions; why was the basketball team suspended?, why was the information so obscured?, and why was everyone hesitant to discuss it?
Saddleback College falls under the California Community College Athletic Association, using its constitution and bylaws to govern its actions. The CCCAA is the California community college equivalent to the NCAA; it is through the CCCAA that rules are determined and suspensions are given out.
Suspensions for community colleges found to be in violation of the constitution are determined based upon an infractions chart found in Article 7 of the CCCAA constitution. The infractions chart is divided in to 4 levels of violation:
Level I- Lack of institutional control
Level II- Violations of Commission
Level III- Violations of Omission
Level IV- Administrative Violations
Each level of violation comes with a specific punishment; for violations of level I, the penalty is a probationary period for a minimum of 2 years and the loss of postseason competition for 2 years for the offending program. For level II violations, the penalty is a one year probationary period along with other sanctions deemed appropriate.
When asked about why Saddleback College was suspended from the postseason, Randy Totorp, Saddleback College’s Atheltics Direction and Assistant Dean of Kinesiology and Athletics, said “There was a bylaw 2 violation.”
Bylaw 2 of the CCCAA constitution governs the recruitment of student-athletes and the proper conduct for a school attempting to recruit those athletes to their programs. The specific clauses within the bylaw relate to how a school can interact with both in-state and out-of-state recruits as well as prohibits the subsidizing of both potential and current student-athletes by the school.
When asked what level of violation Saddleback was punished under, Dan Clauss, the Dean of Kinesiology and Athletics at Saddleback College, said that Saddleback College fell under a level I infraction. However, for violating bylaw 2, the Men’s Basketball team received a one year postseason suspension along with a one year probationary period, which is shorter than the required probationary period and postseason suspension laid out in the constitution’s infraction chart.
In addition to their postseason suspension and probationary period, Saddleback was required to forfeit all of their games from the 2017-18 season.
When reached out to for comments regarding the suspension, twice through email and twice over the phone, OEC commissioner John Keever did not respond.
As for how the violation came into view of the CCCAA, the violation was self-reported by the Saddleback athletics administration. When Clauss began his tenure as dean, the entire department was reviewed, and when the basketball program was determined to be in violation of the bylaws, the issue was reported to the CCCAA.
When asked for comment on why the athletics administration at Saddleback College was unable to share more information about the details of the bylaw 2 violation, Clauss said “I can’t give you details, student FERPA—and also employees too.”
FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a federal law that controls the access to educational information and records by public entities, such as employers and educational institutions.
Saddleback’s formal probationary period ends April 28.