Violation leaves Walters State out of postseason
A regular at the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series won’t be back this season.
Walters State Community College (Tennessee) is ineligible for postseason play this season after the NJCAA placed the Senators on probation because of the wording of an in-house letter of intent form that’s tied to financial aid.
Walters State won the 2006 JUCO World Series and has appeared in seven tournaments, six since 2003.
“We’re crushed, absolutely crushed, to know that we’re not coming to Grand Junction this year,” Walters State coach David Shelton said. “We’ve been to Grand Junction a lot lately and we realize how special it is. It’s why we work as hard as we do and it’s why kids choose to come to this school.
“We’re not blessed with unlimited resources. We’re not funded with the maximum amount of scholarships and kids aren’t here on full rides. They all have to pay something to be here and they do so with the hopes of making it to Grand Junction.
“The extremely disappointing part of this, for us, is that it stemmed from something no one in our program had any control over. We didn’t even know about it.”
The violation comes from wording that requires walk-on athletes to obtain a release to transfer to schools in the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association, in which Walters State competes.
The NJCAA’s ruling reads: “The wording used in the Walters State Letter of Intent/Grant-In-Aid Form implies that the student has committed to WSCC and is not permitted to attend any other institution without being released. The fact that the student has not signed an NJCAA Letter of Intent, the student has not committed to WSCC and is free to participate at other member institutions.”
The penalty also places limits on the national letters of intent the school can use in the next two years, capping WSCC at 14 for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. The NJCAA allows 24 NLIs for baseball.
Walters State finished 44-12 this season, and Shelton said he’s proud of the way his team battled despite the postseason ban.
“Coming back there, and getting to do that once, once you’ve been to Grand Junction it’s all you strive for as a coach,” Shelton said. “It’s that special. We’re going to do everything we can to get back there next year. These guys, it’s been tough on them and we’ve had to battle to keep them in the right mindset.
“We’ve had a really successful year and it’s pretty surprising, because it would have been really easy for our kids to shut it down knowing that they weren’t able to participate in the postseason.”
As for the NLI limits, Shelton said he hopes his program can continue like it always has.
“I understand that the NJCAA has to be extremely black and white with these things,” Shelton said. “It’s one of the things they told me when we flew out to Colorado Springs for the appeal. They’re not looking at intent. The only thing they’re looking for is if there’s a violation. That’s just the way it is.
“We weren’t fully funded to begin with, so we’ve relied on a lot of walk-ons. We’ve had several walk-ons become All-Americans for us, so hopefully we can have a few more and get back there next year.”