Friday, November 27, 2015

K-State: Decision to deny Romero’s release is final

Kansas State has no intention of releasing Leticia Romero from her scholarship.

“Under university policy, the appeals committee’s decision is final and binding, and there is no university procedure to reexamine one of those decisions,” K-State vice president for communications and marketing Jeffery Morris said in a press release Wednesday night. “Thus, the university process concludes with the appeals committee’s decision.”

Wednesday, however, The Mercury learned K-State athletic director John Currie had attempted to reverse the committee’s decision to deny the Spanish point guard her scholarship release with a letter to committee leader and vice president of student life Pat Bosco.

In the letter, dated May 5, Currie said after gathering new information, he believed it was in Romero’s best interest to be given a conditional release after all. Currie’s new information stems from a one-on-one conversation he had with Romero only after he had denied her initial request and after the appeals committee had upheld his refusal to grant a release.

According to Romero, it was the first conversation she had with Currie about the transfer and the alleged tampering involving the former coaching staff or an outside party — but only after her options for a release through the university had been exhausted and ruled final.

“The purpose of this letter is to provide additional information that I have gathered subsequent to the committee’s hearing with Leticia Romero on April, 16, 2014,” Currie wrote in the letter obtained by The Mercury. “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, however, doesn’t have the power to change the committee’s decision or call a new hearing — and nor does K-State president Kirk Schulz — according to Wednesday night’s official statement from the university.

“Recent media reports may have created the impression that the university is reconsidering student-athlete Leticia Romero’s request for a transfer,” Morris wrote. “The news reports are based on an apparent photo of a confidential letter from athletic director John Currie to Pat Bosco, vice president for student life at Kansas State University.”

The statement went on to say, “The final and binding nature of these decisions does not allow for them to be overturned by university administrators.”

Now the only option for Romero appears to be legal action against K-State. She’s being represented by Donald Jackson of the Sports Group in Montgomery, Ala.

“It is my client’s desire to resolve this matter without the necessity of legal action,” Jackson wrote in a recent letter to Schulz. “However, she 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, an All-Big 12 selection this past season for the Wildcats, met with the appeals committee on April 16 and was denied her release shortly after. It was a decision that has left Romero in limbo ever since — blocked from receiving a scholarship at another Division-I school for a year and prohibited from having any contact with another coach.

Romero first requested a release two weeks following Deb Patterson’s dismissal as head coach in early March, saying she wasn’t a good fit with new coach Jeff Mittie and the reason she came to K-State was because of the former coaching staff. Currie denied that request, forcing Romero to take her case to the campus appeals committee.

The Wildcats’ leader in points (14.2), rebounds (5.8) and assists (4.9) per game last season as a freshman, Romero has become the poster child for NCAA transfer issues of late, as her story has made national headlines seemingly every week since April. She was featured on Wednesday’s edition of ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.”

“He said, ‘I want you to be released,’” Romero told “Outside the Lines,” referencing her conversation with Currie. “‘Coach Mittie wants you to be released. The athletic department wants you to be released. But now this is not in my hands. It’s in the committee’s hands. I can’t do anything about it.’”

Currie’s only public comment on the matter came last month when he sent a series of tweets implying Romero’s release had been denied due to tampering or outside third-party influence — indirectly pointing the finger at the former K-State coaching staff that was let go in March and former graduate assistant Xavier Lopez, whom Romero had known previously from Spain.

Earlier this month, former K-State associate head coach Kamie Ethridge was named head coach at Northern Colorado — with former KSU head coach Deb Patterson and assistants Shalee Lehning and Kelly Moylan all joining her staff.

“I asked Leticia directly if any of our former staff members had encouraged her to leave K-State,” Currie wrote in his letter to Bosco. “She was direct that this was not the case.

“Additionally, I asked Leticia directly if she was aware of Xavier Lopez or anyone else ‘shopping’ her to other schools or offering to ‘deliver’ her in return for a coaching position for themselves. Leticia said emphatically ‘no’ to this question. Additionally, on her initiative, Leti said ‘Xavier is 99 percent going to Northern Colorado. Kelly, Coach P and all are going with Coach E.’

“Leticia said that she is not going to Northern Colorado and regarding former staff members, ‘I am not planning to go with any of them.’”

For what it’s worth, Northern Colorado was not on the list of 94 schools Romero presented to K-State as possible schools she would have interest in transferring to, pending a release. She was blocked to all 94.

Recently, however, Romero learned two schools were given permission to speak with her — a pair of low-majors she has no interest in attending and weren’t on her initial list.

Another reason for Currie’s newfound desire to see Romero released is that Mittie indicated that it is his belief that it’s in the best interest of his program to see Romero move on.

“After several meetings with individual players, he believes that the current team does not want to play with Leticia anymore and thus would be in our current student-athletes’ best interests to grant her a conditional release.”

A request to interview Currie was denied by the athletic department due to student-athlete privacy laws.


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