By Austin Metz
Editor in Chief
The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) has ruled that Grand Rapids Community College’s football program was in violation of NJCAA bylaws that stemmed from assistant coaches talking with Beckett Property Management about player housing.
The program, which was canceled on January 9 by President Steven Ender, was led by Coach Tony Annese and had just come off a perfect 11-0 season.
Additional bylaw violations committed by the program included assigning football players to certain Beckett properties, arranging the signing of Beckett Property leases, fulfilling parent requests to move athletes to alternate housing, and having football staff members sign housing contracts with Beckett Properties.
“When the football coaches reached out to Beckett to arrange for housing for the players, this was where the wrong doing was done,” said GRCC President Steven Ender. “The school knew absolutely nothing about the situation before Beckett came to the school.”
GRCC Athletic Director Charles Wells said the school self-reported the issues when the school was contacted by Beckett Property Management in mid-November about the issues Beckett was having with the program.
“We self-reported these issues because we believed that there were some infractions within the program, most likely with an assistant coach,” Wells said. “I think the ruling by the NJCAA is fair. As a school we weren’t hiding anything.”
Ender confirmed that it was an assistant coach within the program who contacted Beckett to receive housing benefits, but would not identify the coach.
“My initial thought was to find out what was really going on,” Ender said. “I kept asking, ‘Why does Beckett think we owe them this money?’”
Ender said that it had to do with coaches reaching out to the company, and he also said that those outside the program knew nothing about it.
Former Head Coach Tony Annese, who oversaw players and assistant coaches within the program, has now moved to Ferris State University and did not answer numerous attempts to contribute to this article.
The NJCAA’s final judgement stated that had the football program not been canceled, it would have been placed on probation for the 2012-2013 season.
The ruling would have forced the program to sit out post-season play for the 2012 season, would have reduced the number of available “Letters of Intent” within the program from 70 to 45, and would have taken the school out of consideration for the honor of “Top Non-Scholarship Program” following the 2011 season.
In the report given to President Steven Ender, the NJCAA reportedly found a list of properties from Beckett Property Management that was given to players with a statement that read, “These are the properties we have contracted through Beckett Properties.” Also on the list was the statement, “Housing through Beckett is limited, and at the discretion of the coaching staff.”
These statements were written by staff within the football program.
The final report was written by the NJCAA’s Assistant Executive Director Brian D. Beck who confirmed that since GRCC is part of the NJCAA, they have to follow all rules and bylaws of the NJCAA.
“NJCAA member colleges agree to follow the rules and bylaws of the association and support the need for the enforcement of sanctions when those rules are broken,” Beck said.
Beck also said that although the school was wrong, he feels they will do all they can to make things right.
“GRCC is a great institution,” Beck said. “The NJCAA is confident they will go the extra mile to put in measures and procedures so that violations like these can be prevented in the future.”
Athletic director Wells said these rulings had little to do with canceling the program.
“It had zero, not one ounce to do with the canceling of the program,” Wells said. “I have seen the highs and lows of the program and calls to cancel it have been going on since 1985.”
“In the past, presidents have been able to make it work financially but we are in a different economic time now,” Wells said.
Ender echoed that this had little if anything to do with the cancellation of the program.
“It had nothing to do with the cancellation of the program,” Ender said.