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May 06, 2010

CCU nearly forfeited games

CONWAY | Coastal Carolina’s record-breaking campaign in men’s basketball was nearly wiped away this spring.

During a discussion of a new student-athlete class attendance policy in a board of trustees athletics committee meeting on Thursday, Executive Vice President Eddie Dyer said that the program was close to forfeiting games because one of its athletes failed to attend class this semester.

Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek said after the meeting there was a significant risk of forfeitures when it was discovered the athlete, whom he did not name, was skipping class. Due to federal financial aid regulations, the player was eventually dropped from the class and fell below the full-time student threshold, making him ineligible to compete.

“If you don’t go to class the professor has to de-register you because you receive financial aid based on whether you are a full-time or part-time student,” Yurachek said. “It was put in place to protect the federal financial aid system so that there is not fraud.

“If you have a student-athlete that is not a full-time student and is competing, [the forfeiture of games] wouldn’t have been definitive but that’s typically the course of action from the NCAA.”

Luckily for Coastal, the player had taken a Winter term course that had not been counted toward his status in the spring, Yurachek said. By adding that class to his spring load, he was again above the 12-hour, full-time threshold and Coastal avoided disaster.

It was unclear how many games the Chanticleers would have been forced to forfeit, though any late-season losses could have cost them the program’s first Big South regular-season championship since 1991. Coastal finished 28-7.

Failsafes have now be inserted in Coastal’s computer system that will alert athletic department officials if a student-athlete falls below full-time status, Yurachek said. He presented a draft of his new attendance policy, which sets strict guidelines for Coastal’s athletes, to the committee and will share it with the faculty senate today.

The plan calls for athletes that have four unexcused class absences – this does not include time missed for athletic events – to be suspended for 10 percent of their team’s total schedule. In a 30-game season that would equate to a three-game suspension. Each subsequent absence would cost the athlete one game.

Dyer expressed concerns over the willingness of faculty members to take attendance and report those results on a regular basis, but Yurachek believes he’ll gain the support of the school’s professors.

The committee also discussed several other issues:

* The committee suggested the school study the addition of women’s lacrosse in the 2012-13 school year. The school has been forced to reduce the number of male athletes on campus to comply with Title IX regulations.

However, that isn’t the only reason Coastal is pursuing the sport. Yurachek said a campus-wide study earlier this year determined that there is significant interest in the sport, which is not surprising considering the large number of northerners that attend Coastal. The sport is popular in the Northeast.

Lacrosse should be relatively affordable, costing less than $500,000 initially, Yurachek said.

Due to recent changes in the interpretation of Title IX, Coastal football coach David Bennett has been asked to cut his roster to 100 players, meaning only 15 of them will be walk ons. In FCS, schools are allowed to split 63 scholarships over 85 players.

There is no current risk of Coastal cutting any men’s or women’s athletic teams, Yurachek said. He would not rule that out in the future, however.

* The committee suggested that the school quickly begin working to capitalize on the baseball team’s success as it tries to raise funds for new stadium facilities for baseball and softball. Private money may ultimately have to cover most of the expenses.

“Let’s get out there and start swinging,” committee member and baseball donor Mike Pruitt said.

In-house renderings will be completed over the course of the next few weeks, giving officials something to sell in fundraising. President David DeCenzo said he and baseball coach Gary Gilmore are planning a grassroots effort to help raise funds from former players and potential donors once the 2010 season is completed.

* Construction on Coastal baseball’s indoor hitting facility has been slowed by material delays, said Will Garland, senior vice president for finance and administration.

The steel needed for the project had to be specially ordered and will not arrive until mid-June. The project should then be completed in about a month, Garland said.

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