Eight players that suited up last year for Portland State’s football team will likely not return for the 2008 season after their scholarships were not renewed for the 2008-09 academic year.
In early June, each of the players were informed by the athletic department in a letter that their athletic scholarship would end at the end of spring term. They also each met with either their position coach or head football coach Jerry Glanville.
Three of the players who did not have their scholarships renewed confirmed for the Vanguard Monday the names of all eight of the players. The players named are as follows: Matt Bramow, Ronnie Fa’avae, Reggie Joseph, AJ Nielsen, Tristan Patin, Matt Smith, Scott Stone and Marcel Thompson.
The players said that another student-athlete, who walked onto the team this past spring, was not invited back after sustaining a concussion.
While nearly all of the letters cited academic issues as motivation for their release, some of the players were given specific reasons.
“Marcel and Matt [Smith] were in trouble with housing, while AJ Nielsen missed weight room sessions because he got bronchitis,” one of the players said. Glanville and Chisholm declined to comment on the reasons for removing the players, and phone calls to Smith were not returned.
According to assistant athletic director Chris Moore, who oversees NCAA rule compliance at Portland State, each athletic program can choose to renew or reduce scholarships at the end of every academic year. “The reasons can vary why the scholarship is not renewed; academic problems, injuries, missed workouts, off-the-field issues and poor play could all contribute to a player not having their scholarship renewed,” Moore said.
Glanville said academic performance is extremely important in measuring the responsibility and maturity of the players.
Neither Moore nor athletic director Torre Chisholm would comment on the names of the players or the amount of those players’ scholarships. Glanville also said he felt justified in making each of the roster changes.
“I didn’t really cut anybody when I first got here because I wanted to give everybody an opportunity,” Glanville said. “All of the players on our team are told repeatedly that they are going to be held accountable for their actions in our program, and these players were all warned sufficiently.”
According to the three players who spoke to the Vanguard Monday, under the condition of anonymity, their performance has been above the expectations set by Glanville.
Each of them claim their performance in the classroom was solid, with each boasting a GPA well above the 2.0 required by Portland State athletics. One of the eight players graduated this spring and was planning on playing next year as a graduate student in his final year of eligibility.
All three athletes said that the reasons cited by the athletic department for their release were unfounded.
“It is never a pleasant situation when you have to cut somebody at any level,” Chisholm said. “All scholarships are year-to-year, but the NCAA rules provide for a lot of latitude in not renewing scholarships.”
Scholarships are established as year-to-year contracts to benefit the university system, Chisholm said. He likened the university’s decision to not renew scholarships to the decision that a student-athlete makes when they choose to transfer at the end of a season.
Many of the released players are appealing their suspension, but it seems unlikely that any will be seen on the field next season. In lieu of appealing, some of the student-athletes may transfer to nearby Division II universities, with Central Washington and Western Oregon being likely destinations.
The NCAA requires students that transfer within the Division I classification to sit out a year from competing, but the rule does not apply to those that move from Division I to Division II.
Other players may choose to remain at Portland State and apply for financial aid or other scholarship forms in order to continue their education. Each of the players interviewed specifically mentioned the stress and potential hardship that they each now face.
“I was recruited here, and I bought into the system,” one of the former players said. “I bought everything that the coaches told me, and its hard not to feel wronged at this point.”
After the NCAA created the Academic Progress Report (APR) and released their initial report this past May, the football team received the harshest penalty of the four Vikings athletic teams that had sub-par scores. The APR is a tool that measures each Division I athletic team’s academic success.
At the time, Glanville said that he did not know anything about the academic problems at the school and assured fans that his rigorous academic requirements would prevent future problems.
“We require students to go to study halls, we require them to go to class, and the majority of the students follow the rules. I have learned that in football, your roster and your team gets shaped by people that are accountable,” Glanville said.
While the termination of the eight players’ scholarships creates some extra financial space for other players or future recruits, losing eight scholarship players just six weeks before the season opener could create some huge voids in the roster.
The departure of Joseph, Thompson and Smith will leave the receiver position, a necessity in the run-and-shoot offense, shorthanded even with the plethora of newcomers arriving for fall camp.
Nielsen, Patin and Fa’avae all contributed last season on defense. Fa’avae switched from linebacker to fullback midway through the season and scored two touchdowns during the final two games. Stone, who handled all of the long snapping for the Portland State special teams, will be replaced this fall as well.
With their first contest against Division II Western Oregon on Aug. 30 looming, the roster changes place extra emphasis on the incoming athletes that Glanville has recruited.
“Each year you get more players that you want around,” Glanville said. “We hope to take the next step forward towards a successful program this year.”