MANHATTAN — Kansas State says the matter is closed. Leticia Romero and her attorney insist the opposite.
Neither side seems willing to budge in their ongoing transfer dispute.
Romero’s attorney, Donald Jackson of The Sports Group in Montgomery, Ala., said Thursday that his client will continue fighting for a release from her basketball scholarship and that she is prepared to take legal action against K-State.
“That is always a possibility,” Jackson said by phone, “but there are a number of administrative steps we can take within the NCAA system before it degenerates to that level.”
The first step, Jackson said, was to contact the NCAA and request options for a financial-aid waiver that would allow Romero to transfer to a school of her choosing and immediately receive an athletic scholarship.
Romero can enroll at any other school, but without a scholarship release from K-State she won’t be eligible for an athletic scholarship for a year.
K-State has blocked Romero from receiving immediate financial aid from 94 schools in 13 conferences. She requested a release to those 94 schools in her initial transfer request, which was denied by athletic officials. Romero appealed that decision, but it was also denied.
Jackson said K-State has granted Romero permission to contact two schools not on her initial list. He said it also briefly granted Middle Tennessee State, one of the teams on her list, permission to speak with Romero on Thursday via e-mail. But K-State retracted the offer within one hour, claiming a clerical error had been made. The e-mail was a mistake.
“Who is in charge of that athletic department? Kindergarteners? ” Jackson said. “I have never seen anything like this.… They need to release her to every school on the list. A conditional release is fine. Let her go anywhere outside the Big 12 and Northern Colorado. Until she is released this not going away. They need to end this. It’s as simple as that.”
Those words came in response to a statement issued by K-State on Wednesday evening that made its stance on Romero’s transfer request clear. Because an appeals committee denied Romero’s request for a release last month, she will not be able to obtain one. The ruling of the committee is “final and binding.”
“There is no university procedure to reexamine one of those decisions,” read the statement, which was written by K-State vice president for communications and marketing Jeffery Morris. “Thus, the university process concludes with the Appeals Committee’s decision. Also, the final and binding nature of these decisions does not allow for them to be overturned by university administrators.”
K-State made the statement after a letter from athletic director John Currie to Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco, who led the appeals committee, was obtained by the Eagle. In the letter, Currie wrote that he initially had concerns about tampering from K-State’s former women’s basketball coaches. But new information had eased those concerns. The letter was dated May 5.
“Although it is unprecedented,” Currie wrote, “I believe that is in the student-athlete’s best interest for the committee to reconvene to consider this new information and potentially approve her request for a conditional transfer release.”
Currie wrote that new women’s basketball coach Jeff Mittie was ready to move on without Romero and that her former teammates no longer had a desire to play with her. He also thought it would be in everyone’s best interest to grant Romero a conditional release.
Jackson questioned why Currie wrote the letter.
“This athletic director’s actions, this athletic department’s actions and now this university’s actions are unlike anything I have ever seen in college sports,” Jackson said. “What they are attempting to do is deflect responsibility here from the athletic director and put it back on the committee. It’s not a committee decision. The finality of its decision is final only as it relates to a student-athlete’s ability to appeal it further. There is nothing to prevent this athletic director today from releasing her to transfer wherever she wants to go.”
K-State insists otherwise.
On Thursday both Currie and Mittie said the Romero saga has been a distraction, but otherwise deflected questions about it, citing student privacy laws.
“Anytime you take over a program you know that everything is not going to go as smoothly as you would like,” Mittie said. “Transition is hard. The thing I get back to is our team has been so good. They come in collectively and work hard every day. That is all you can ask for.”
Added Currie: “I am proud of our coaching staff.”
Romero, from Las Palmas, Spain, was the Wildcats’ top player this past season. As a freshman, she led the team in scoring (14.2 points), rebounds (5.8), assists (4.9) and minutes (32.6). She was chosen Big 12 freshman of the week four times.
She asked for a release from her scholarship shortly after K-State fired coach Deb Patterson and hired Mittie as her replacement. Earlier this week, Jackson sent an e-mail to K-State president Kirk Schulz and Currie threatening legal action if Romero wasn’t granted a full release.
Earlier this month, Patterson was hired as an assistant coach by new Northern Colorado coach Kamie Ethridge, a former K-State assistant. Ethridge’s staff also includes former Wildcat assistants Shalee Lehning, as associate head coach, and Kelly Moylan. Romero told Currie she won’t transfer to Northern Colorado.
But she will continue to fight for her release elsewhere.
“This is not going to be an overnight resolution,” Jackson said. “The only immediate resolution would be for the athletic department to release the student-athlete and allow her to create as much distance between herself and Kansas State as possible.”