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Exclusive: Leticia Romero's 60-day journey to freedom

Leti discusses her attempts to get the normal release to leave Kansas State. One thing that came across during the interview was that Leticia Romero bears no ill will toward the current Kansas State women's basketball coaching staff or the administration at the Kansas State University.

Photo by Perrone Ford

Swish Appeal: Were you surprised at the release of the Kansas State coaching staff at the end of your freshman year?

Leti Romero: "I was surprised. I didn't expect it. I was surprised because Coach Patterson had been there for 18 years. When I made my decision to come Kansas State, it was important to me to have the coach be there for my four years. I didn't know much about the United States.

"Again, my English was not good. I did not want to have to adjust twice to something different. I wanted to go to KSU because of the people who were there."

SA: Stability was critical?

LR: "Yes. When she had been there for 18 years, I never thought they were going to fire her. I knew the season was not good but I also knew that we [our team] were young so I really did not expect it."

SA: It wasn't any one thing then? It didn't feel right to you? It was more of a gut check then than any one thing?

LR: "Yes, it didn't feel right how everything was handled. I did not feel it was fair how the prior staff was released. Then the new coaches had a whole different philosophy. I was starting to be homesick. It was nearing the end of the year when I had to be home. It was eight months in a row and a spring break that I can remember. Everyone else went home and I was still there. It was like many things coming together. I just didn't feel right there."

SA: Did you meet with the new KSU coach (Jeff Mittie) and did he try to talk you out of transferring?

LR: "Yes, I met with him twice. He was the first person I told that I wanted to transfer. I let him know before I officially asked for the release. We had talks about it. He was nice, not threatening. He told me something like I might have to pay my own way for school."

SA: Were you surprised that KSU would not release you to transfer (with scholarship at the new school) which is customary?

LR: "I was really surprised. I never thought they had a legitimate reason to not let me go [with the normal release] if I was not happy there. I worked the whole year for the team and I didn't do anything wrong. I never acted in a bad way. The fact that they denied me the release without even telling me a single reason."

SA: They just said "no release for Ms. Leti." with no reasons given?

LR: "Yes. After I completely made my decision, I said I'm leaving no matter what. They may have thought there was tampering going on but if so, why didn't they ask me about it?"

SA: In a sense, they kind of stonewalled you. They said 'no release' and no further discussion. Does that summarize it?

LR: "Right."

SA: Did you know if it was customary for other players at KSU to get a release or was denied a release as you were?

LR: "I knew there were players from the men's team a few years before who had wanted to transfer and got their releases. I never heard of a player who didn't get a release at KSU [note that it was written elsewhere during this time period that someone in the KSU administration indicated that KSU was acting according to its normal policy in not granting Leti her release.]"

SA: As best you know other people got releases?

LR: "Yes. I said that in the appeal. They were telling me about the policy. You didn't apply the policy for these other players because no player was denied. The men's team released two or three players two or three years ago. There was even a player coming into the KSU women's program who had signed a letter of intent under the prior coaching staff and she said she did not want to come anymore [after the coaching change] and they let her go."

SA: So now they were threatening you with non-release, what actions did you take to try to get released in the customary fashion? Did you get a lawyer?

LR: "That was way at the end when everybody knew about it [my situation]. At the beginning I was trying to go through the process. I remember I wasn't ready for a 'no' that I couldn't talk to any other university. I remember that they said to send us a list and we will tell you who we are going to block. And they blocked everybody and I wasn't ready for that. Then I was told I could appeal and I appealed.

"I went to the committee [that heard my case] and they told me I was denied without any reason given to me. I didn't know what to do after that because I didn't have any other option. They did not want to talk to me that point."

SA: So you first tried to go through normal channels. They denied you. They would not give you any school that they would let you talk to from the list you gave them. You went to an appeal on your own and the appeal went against you. Is this where you went and got a lawyer?

LR: "Yes, I spent a couple of weeks trying to find out what to do. That was when everybody was starting to know about what they [KSU] did."

SA: Could I ask for the time frame when the new coach (Jeff Mittie] came on board when?

LR: "I think it was in mid-March."

SA: About what date were you denied the appeal by KSU?

LR: "I don't remember what day it was but I know it was the end of April or the beginning of May."

SA: At this point did you go get a lawyer? What did you do next?

LR: "I didn't know what to do. I asked many people what should I do. If there is an option that I can have. Some people told me that maybe a lawyer would help. I remember there were many people like Jay Bilas and Dick Vitale of ESPN. I talked to Jay Bilas and he wanted to help me. He called Kansas State to ask them what was going on. He was the one who gave me the contact of the lawyer."

SA: So you now got a lawyer. So you heard about the "free Leti" movement. You realized that it had gotten into the national media.

LR: "Yes, many things were tweeted about it."

SA: There were long stories written about your case.

LR: "Yes. I read many stories and even interviews were requested from newspapers."

SA: Kansas State took a lot of publicity hits from this. What made that suddenly change to give you a release?

LR: "I really don't know. The lawyer that I had was talking to them and they made a mistake regarding my list."

SA: How many were on your list?

LR: "I think it was maybe 99, not counting the Big 12 that I didn't put any of them on the list (pretty much every other D one school that is BCS). In the end they told me that they were going to release me to every school not on the list, which I did not understand. They made a mistake because some universities contacted them asking for permission to contact me.

"One of them KSU thought was not on the list and permission was granted to release me to talk to them. But the school was on my list. So I said if you are releasing me to one that is on my list, what is the problem releasing me to the other ones? Then my lawyer talked to them about it. They ended up releasing me to all schools on the list.

"I went to talk to the KSU Athletic Director and told him that I saw some tweets that he put on Twitter about tampering and concerns he had. I told him that I am not going to follow my former coaches [to Northern Colorado]. I think all of the things [administrative error, perhaps negative publicity] made them decide to release me"