Swish Appeal: What did you make of the whole Kansas State vs. Leticia Romero situation?
Jay Bilas: Well, I think it was a combination of bad NCAA policy, really shaky policy on the part of Kansas State and then an athletic director that made it personal -- and got mad, whoever he was mad at whether it was Romero or the former staff. It was the player, the athlete that paid the price for it.
I may look at this a little bit differently than some people, but I don't think the NCAA and the member schools can have it both ways on this. If you want to say they're students who just happen to be athletes, they should be treated like any other student. You can't jerk around on transfers; no other student who transfers is prohibited from transferring and taking aid somewhere else. I'm not talking about sitting out a year, there (are) competitive balance reasons for that. They call it the wrong thing; they call it "a year in residence", like somehow you have to get acquainted with the school before you can go there, it's really kind of silly. It's for sports reasons, and that's fine.
Not allowing someone to take aid or not allowing somebody to talk to another coaching staff when they have decided to leave - it's just wrong. I look at that as being a non-compete provision: those are for employees. We say, ‘They are not employees and they should be restricted,' if they are restricted, then you got to be able to give more than a scholarship -- you can't have it both ways on that.
SA: When you heard that Kansas State had reversed course and decided to give Romero her release -- after stating the decision to not release her was final, what was your reaction?
JB: My first reaction was, ‘Finally, they've come to their senses.' But the second reaction was, ‘Why did they do this Rube Goldberg torture type policy?' Because really what they did was, in putting it back in the AD's hands, like (he) got 15 days to start an investigation to determine there's new evidence. What if new evidence comes to light 16 days after - then they can't do it?
Q&A with Bring on the Cats on Leticia Romero
Jon Morse and Tye Burger of SB Nation's Bring on the Cats discuss the Leticia Romero transfer situation with us, as well as the future of their women's basketball program.
They can give a release anytime they want - anytime they want. There's no reason for them to bind themselves. I understand the policy: we've got to cut off your appeals at some point, we've got to be able to move on when we've made our minds up, and then we're not going to change our minds, then we can't keep giving you the right. But, they've got the right and the ability to change their minds whenever they want...They looked at John Currie as being a trial court judge, and then the appeals court judge when they made the decision, the trial court judge can't just jump in there. Well, I don't look at him as him being a judge; I looked at him being as one of the parties.
And in a litigation -- like say two parties are in a litigation battle, and they go to appeals level and the appeals court makes the decision. OK, the decision is binding but that doesn't mean that the parties can't still settle it between themselves: ‘You know what, we changed our minds, you can go.' There's nothing that would prohibit that, and they tried to make it seem like there was. And, it was all artificial and it was all phony. Clearly, by what they did, you could tell that they could anything they want. They changed their policy? When they just made this bold statement the week before: ‘We're not doing this, we are not revisiting this!' They could do whatever they wanted. And, the president could step in, the trustees, the athletic counsel, and then the appeals board can change their minds -- it's absurd, the whole thing was a Rube Goldberg.
SA: What are your thoughts on how athletic director John Currie handled this whole ordeal?
JB: At first I hesitated to use this term, but I used the term shameful. I thought it was shameful. Let me back up to the very beginning, when I found out about this, Romero had reached out to me via email, so I started to look into it. Whenever you find out about something, you want to get both sides of things. I called Kansas State, I called Currie - I actually met with him and he wouldn't discuss it at all. I put out something on Twitter that I thought she should be released and Kansas State was making a mistake.
And then (Currie) put out on Twitter this five tweet explanation on why Kansas State wouldn't release a player and it said: "tampering, undue influence by a third party" or dishonesty by the athlete. He claims privacy and won't talk about it, and then puts that out there, which I looked upon as a smear.
It has been because of concerns about outside tampering, undue influence by third parties... (Cont'd)— John Currie (@John_Currie) April 22, 2014
or procedures not being followed in an honest and forthright manner.— John Currie (@John_Currie) April 22, 2014
It was a smear of Romero and it was a smear of the former staff. He had no evidence whatsoever of tampering, did not speak to Romero until after the appeal. If you feel there's something going on, how could you not talk to the principals involved and find out what's going on?
Then after the appeal - I don't believe that there was anything in Kansas State's rules and bylaws that prohibited Kansas State from changing its mind and releasing Romero. The final and binding language was for Romero and not for the school. So, the idea that they couldn't change their minds and then all of a sudden they change their policy - they come with this grand statement about, ‘there's no procedure to revisit this and that it's final and over.' And then they changed it right away!
Nobody at Kansas State, and I mean nobody - I called the president, I called the AD, I called everyone in compliance, I called Dr. Pat Bosco, who's the chair of Appeals committee - I didn't get one call back, not one. Nobody would explain their procedures, not the case, but they wouldn't explain (their procedures). Like, I wanted to know how is this final and binding? Nobody would discuss it.
But, then when they make their decision, now all of a sudden -- when they are getting hammered in the media - then they got a response, ‘Here's how it works.' It's situational ethics, situational use of privacy as a shield so they don't have to talk about it. Let's call it what it is: they buckled to public pressure. They were getting hammered, and rightfully so, and they caved. And, I give them credit for caving. Just because it took them forever to do the right thing, at least they did the right thing. And if they did it for the wrong reasons, OK, but at least they did it and she can go.
SA: Kansas State continued to imply tampering, but it looked like they didn't have any hard evidence and yet they wouldn't release her to the 94 schools she listed - none of which were in the Big 12 or Northern Colorado. What are your thoughts on that?
JB: I do not believe that Kansas State launched a complaint with the Big 12 or with the NCAA about tampering. I don't think they had any evidence of it, I think they had rumor and innuendo. But, they clearly didn't do any investigation. After the appeal, Romero asked to meet with Currie and he met with her. And that's how he determined that there was no tampering, because he actually talked to someone. So all of a sudden, he wrote a letter to the Appeals board -- now I don't know if that was for real or for show. I don't think he ever had any intention of releasing her...ever. Now that's just my belief.
I found this really interesting that their procedures -- reasonable people would look at that, I've been a lawyer for 20 years - there's no way I could figure that procedure out. Like when she went to compliance and said that I would like to transfer, compliance said, ‘OK, give us a list of schools that you want to consider to transfer to.' So, a reasonable person would say, ‘They want a list; I'll make the list broad so I have more options.'
By making the list broad, she limited her options, because they decided she made (a list of) 94 schools, so those 94 schools are out. When she goes to the appeal, how is she to figure out that if she appealed that she took the decision totally out of the athletic director's hand? Then the athletic director claims: ‘Well, I can't do anything now, you appealed and they said no, sorry.'
She wanted to audio tape the appeal, they told her, ‘You don't have to do that, we're going to tape it, we'll tape and you can have a copy of it.' And, then they didn't tape it. So there's no audio record of that appeal. I don't know whether they took notes or not, they never gave her a reason why they were denying the transfer.
For more perspectives on this matter, check out our Leticia Romero storystream.