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Spiraling Scandal

Spiraling Scandal
October 21, 2005

Two more coaches joined the indicted club, bringing the total to five in the last year from Barton County Community College.

Lyles Lashley, a Barton track coach, was indicted Wednesday for lying to a federal grand jury about proctoring exams for athletes taking correspondence courses, as well as for mismanaging college funds, and mail fraud, for sending documents claiming the athletes properly completed courses.

Shane Hawkins, a former assistant basketball coach at Barton, and now an assistant coach at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, was charged with lying to a federal grand jury to conceal the fact that athletes received work-study money for jobs they didn’t perform. He faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Hawkins and Lashley join three other former Barton basketball coaches who were indicted in December on related charges stemming from actions between 2001 and 2005. One of those former coaches, Matt Skillman has pled guilty to embezzlement and mail fraud, while Ryan Wolf and Dave Campbell, who have pled not guilty, are awaiting trial.

According to the new indictment, Lashley submitted or approved time sheets for athletes on work-study when they had not done the work. "That resulted in the payment of $18,986 worth of federal funds,” the indictment reads, adding that Lashley otherwise misappropriated $133,826 of Barton money to athletes who were not entitled to it, a charge for which he faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Lashley also faces four counts of mail fraud for allegedly participating in the sending of documents to Adams State College and Brigham Young University, institutions the athletes could have transferred to, that certified that athletes had properly taken exams. Neither Lashley, nor spokespeople for Hawkins would comment.

The Barton indictments illustrate that corruption in college athletics isn’t limited to high profile program universities. There are clearly incentives for athletes and coaches at two-year colleges to impress institutions that athletes might transfer to, like Adams State and BYU. Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said it’s all part of the “win at any cost mentality … that is impacting the integrity of higher education.” Though the Knight Commission generally concerns itself with NCAA Division I programs, Perko said problems “exist at every level of competition, including high school.”

Barton Community College launched its own investigation of the coaches about two years ago, and turned its findings over to the Kansas attorney general. Some Barton faculty members recognize that the investigation may have been necessary, but are not thrilled that the institution was handed a publicity nightmare because it did a good job delving into its own darker side.

“I’m not really sure a lot of this would have come to light if the institution hadn’t policed itself,” said Steve Dayton, a social science professor at Barton. Dayton said he “is still in a state of shock,” because he thought the first three indictments would be the end of the story. Now he hopes people will wait to see how the cases play out, and “not over-blow the importance of athletics” with respect to the educational value of Barton. But, “being a social science teacher, I know that people are not that farsighted,” he said.

Not everyone involved was even fortunate enough to get a trial. Veldon Law, the former president of Barton, was fired by the trustees in July because of the coach controversy. According to college employees who did not want to be named, Law maintains he was pressured by a trustee to hire coaches who were not his first choice. Law provided The Hutchinson News with e-mail messages documenting his contention. According to reports, the trustees maintained that the hirings were a group decision by trustees, the president, and the athletic director. Law supported the investigation and presided over an overhaul of procedures at the college to make sure the same improprieties would not recur. In May, Law gave a presentation to trustees in which he detailed extensive changes in college procedures. Changes included: making students take “face to face” courses whenever possible; when a distance course is needed, it must be approved, and cannot be supervised by a coach; athletes are no longer permitted to have work-study jobs under their coaches, except in very specific circumstances, like a baseball player who tends the field; a computer program was installed to monitor student employee hours; and a course “lacking rigor” was abolished.

Richard Bealer, a psychology professor, said Law led the charge to prevent future problems, and was open to faculty members who wanted to stay informed. “He tried to do things above board, and he paid the deepest price,” Bealer said. He added that, though he is not “a pro-athlete guy,” some of his best students are athletes, and that, while faculty members occasionally make disparaging comments about athletes, there has been no talk by teachers about the need to distance themselves from the Athletic Department.

Randy Smith, a professor of criminal justice at Barton, echoed one of Dayton’s thoughts: that people who want a Barton education will not be deterred by the indictments. As a veteran of law enforcement, Smith said he hopes people will wait to see how the proceedings play out. “What bothers me,” Smith said, “is that if this did occur, then it’s happening at every college in the United States.” He noted, though, that it seems that problems of the nature described in the indictment would be unlikely to happen at Barton in the future, or any institution that took corrective measures similar to Barton’s.

So far, Barton has not decided what action to take with Lashley, and Hawkins has not been suspended. Chris Lowery, the head basketball coach at Southern Illinois, told the student newspaper that “something like this can be tracked. But at this point, it shouldn't be too big of a deal."

The National Junior College Athletic Association, which governs community college athletics, did not offer a comment.

 

 

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