By Sean P. Mulhall – Editor-in-Chief
Grand Rapids Community College head volleyball coach Chip Will’s 10-game suspension came to an end Tuesday with a Raider loss to Lansing Community College at home.
Earlier this week Will and Tina Hoxie, Dean of Student Affairs, met with The Collegiate to explain what led to the suspension.
Sometime in late June, former Athletic Director Charlie Wells was contacted by Dale Vos of the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association), who informed Wells that the GRCC volleyball team had committed an offseason activity violation.
“Chip had signed (two) prospective volleyball players to LOIs (Letter of Intent),” Hoxie said. “When you do that, you can’t have any contact with those prospective players until the season starts, Aug. 1.”
According to Will, it was a simple mistake based on recruiting methods that Will was not familiar with.
“There’s 35 pages of rules and we just didn’t know the rules,” Will said. “This is the first time I’ve coached 18-year-olds. Typically I’ve always had younger kids (play for a club team), so I’ve never had to deal with a prospective student athlete before.”
Will made the contact through a club sport he is involved with, not connected to GRCC. The college then self-reported to the NJCAA that the volleyball team was in fact violating recruiting rules and it was decided by the NJCAA that Will would serve a 10-game suspension and the two players would be ruled ineligible for the 2015-16 school year.
The LOIs were still honored, to ensure the players received the grant or scholarship promised if they stayed at GRCC, but can’t play for the Raiders this year. One player transferred to another institution and the other stayed on the team and is essentially a redshirt freshman this year. Usually reserved for an athlete who is withdrawn from playing for a season to develop skills and extend one’s period of eligibility, the athlete will be able to practice, but not participate in games.
While Will may be excited to be back on the sidelines coaching the players still on the team, the fact that these two players were penalized is the worst part for him.
“That was probably the hardest couple of weeks stretch of my career and life,” Will said. “Having to tell the kids that they were ineligible was probably one of the hardest moments of my life. Both of those kids are like daughters to me.
“Leaving our group each day, not being able to enter the gym with them or being able to do anything is obviously gut wrenching.”
The fact that one ineligible player has decided to stay at the college has helped Will deal with his guilt.
“With one of our players staying, it shows her dedication to GRCC and what a great education she is going to get here,” Will said. “It also shows that she wanted to stay a part of athletics at our institution.”
There is still plenty of season left and the Raiders are looking to learn from this mistake and turn around the rough start they’ve had without Will on the sideline to open the season.
“We’ve been a kind of staple of the athletic program over the nine years that I’ve been here and (I) try to do it the right way,” Will said. “We’re learning from this mistake. It’s a good life lesson for all of us, for our kids, for myself, to make sure that every rule is researched. After this I went through and read all 35 pages of the rule book to make sure that something like this doesn’t fall through the cracks again.”
Will returns to the sidelines to coach the Raiders today at Ancilla College, in northern Indiana.
Sports Editor – Zach Watkins contributed to this article.