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Spring eligibility omission ends NC basketball season


JACKSONVILLE — A clerical omission discovered Friday from an NJCAA Spring Eligibility Form not only cost the Navarro Bulldogs basketball team its quarterfinal win over Coastal Bend, but its entire spring season.

Navarro Athletic Director Roark Montgomery said that one Navarro player had been omitted from the NJCAA spring eligibility form.

“This is a clerical error and I will take full responsibility for it,” Montgomery said Friday afternoon. “It has nothing to do with academics whatsoever.  It’s a certification form.”

According to NJCAA rules, Navarro vacated its 90-56 tournament win over the Cougars, withdrew from the Region XIV Tournament, and will forfeit 11 wins from a 16-game, 2015 spring season that began on January 3.

“This is the worst thing that has ever happened,” Montgomery said, “because it is such a simple thing. I do this seven times a year for 20 years.  I don’t make mistakes like that.  I don’t know how it was missed.  I have these forms on my desk two or three days before they are submitted, just to take the time to check and recheck them against rosters.  It has made me almost physically sick today. It’s just tragic. I’m at a loss.”

Navarro College officials and board members were notified Friday about the issue. Montgomery and head coach Michael Landers, the college’s assistant athletic director, informed the third-seeded team Friday afternoon that its 22-8 season had ended.

NJCAA eligibility forms are completed for each sport, but basketball is the only one for which fall and spring forms are filed.  The player that was omitted from the spring eligibility list appeared on the fall eligibility list, Montgomery said.

How the omission was discovered, or who reported it remain a mystery.

Shortly after noon Friday, NJCAA Executive Director Mary Ellen Leicht and Assistant Executive Director for Compliance Brian Beck met with Montgomery, Tyler JC Director of Athletics Tim Drain, and Region XIV Tournament Director Lynn Nabi on conference call to resolve the matter.

Options of tournament procedure were clarified, before finally announcing that seventh-seeded Tyler would get a walkover to Saturday’s 8 pm championship game against top-seeded San Jacinto, a 72-68 winner over No. 4 seed Angelina.

NJCAA officials determined that Coastal Bend might replace Navarro on the floor for an 8 pm Friday semifinal against Tyler.  CBC was offered the opportunity, but turned it down for multiple reasons.  CBC was on spring break this week, and the Cougars dispersed in varied directions Friday morning – some, on a six-hour, 330-mile trip to the Beeville campus; others to their hometowns, and still others to airports to catch flights home, according to athletic director Estevan Vasquez.  Had the Cougars returned to Jacksonville to play, head coach Larry Mendes would not have been able to coach the team, because he was facing a one-game suspension after he was ejected from Thursday’s quarterfinal loss.

TJC’s walkover to Saturday’s finals is a first in Region XIV Tournament history.