Kansas State athletic director John Currie attempted to help Leticia Romero gain a conditional release from her basketball scholarship, but his efforts will not be enough.
The university issued a statement Wednesday night that made its stance on Romero’s ongoing transfer battle clear: Because a K-State 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.”
Without a scholarship release, Romero can still enroll at another school, but she won’t be eligible for an athletic scholarship for a year.
Transfer options remain for Romero, but K-State will not grant her a release to any of the 94 schools she requested to contact in her initial transfer request. The list included teams from 13 conferences, including Wichita State, Nebraska and Creighton. Romero’s attorney, Donald Jackson of The Sports Group in Montgomery, Ala., said K-State has recently allowed two schools not on her initial list to contact her. But he said Romero wasn’t interested in transferring to schools outside her list.
“She had never heard of the two schools that reached out to her,” Jackson said by phone. “They were both low-majors. She wants to continue playing at the highest level of college basketball.”
Romero may have to adjust her expectations.
On May 5 Currie wrote a letter to K-State’s appeals committee, led by K-State Vice President of Student Life Pat Bosco, asking it to reconsider its ruling against Romero.
In the letter obtained by The Eagle, Currie wrote he had concerns about tampering from K-State’s former women’s basketball coaching staff. But new information eased those concerns. He also wrote: “Although it is unprecedented, 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 went on to write 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.
Romero, from Las Palmas, Spain, was the Wildcats’ top player a year ago. 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. She decided her playing style wasn’t a good fit with her new coach, and submitted to K-State’s compliance office a list of 94 schools from 13 conferences, including Wichita State. But her request was denied by K-State officials. She then appealed that ruling before a committee last month, and was again denied.
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.
Jackson didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment after K-State released its statement Wednesday night. Earlier, he questioned why Currie didn’t have the power to overturn the ruling of K-State’s appeals committee. Jackson said he contacted K-State president Kirk Schulz on Monday and asked him to overturn the decision.
“They determined that there was no tampering involved whatsoever,” Jackson said. “Now their position is that (Currie) can’t change the decision, because of the fact that this committee made a decision on it. That is absolutely incorrect. He is basically saying, ‘I don’t have any proof that there was tampering, but the committee made its decision based on the belief that there was tampering so I can’t change it.’
“He is taking a very disingenuous and dishonest stance. There was apparently a belief that she wanted to follow the previous staff. The reality is that she said from the beginning she had no desire to follow them to Northern Colorado. This was an attempt to force her to stay at Kansas State when she didn’t want to stay at Kansas State.
“This is an athletic director attempting to bully a young woman who is thousands of miles away from home.”
Jackson said K-State has mishandled Romero’s transfer process by rushing the date of her appeals hearing, making it impossible for he parents to attend, and failing to record audio of the hearing.
“This has been an intentional effort to avoid affording her due process,” Jackson said. “It has been an intentional effort to harass her and deny her rights as a student-athlete. They perceive her as being alone and isolated and away from home ... This is one of the worst examples of a denial of due process that I have ever seen.”
Jackson added that he was “cautiously optimistic” K-State would grant Romero a conditional release from her scholarship in the coming weeks. If that didn’t happen, he threatened legal action.
He said he wrote an e-mail to Currie and Schulz stating that Romero, “will not accept anything less than a full release from your University that will allow her to transfer to the school of her choice. If this is not done immediately, it is her intention to initiate legal action against your University.”
Romero’s fight to transfer has made national headlines. ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” featured her during its 2 p.m. broadcast Wednesday. During the broadcast, Romero said she met with Currie after her transfer appeal was denied. But she said he told her there was little he could do to help her on the matter.
“What he said was, ‘I want you to be released,’ ” Romero told “Outside the Lines.” “ ‘Coach Mittie wants you to be released. The athletic department wants you to be released. But now this is not on my hands. It’s in the committee’s hands. I can’t do anything about it.’ ”
Romero did not immediately respond to a request for further comment. K-State athletic officials have denied comment, citing student privacy laws.