By: Ben Abrams
GPC Athletic Director and Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Alfred Barney, sits down with The Collegian to share his point of view about a few things: the Men’s soccer team ban from the 2014 postseason, his expectations for the team this season, and what the future holds for the soccer program.
The C: What is your account of the ruling the NJCAA decided on, and the penalties that were handed out as a result of the ruling?
AB: “The decision to place GPC on probation is not in control of the school, or in control of the athletic director/the coaches. The governing body that makes that decision is the NJCAA. Their ruling based on the violation is true.
The C: What was the official reason for the probation?
AB: “We paid for medical insurance for international students, because it is a fee that all international students have to pay. Because it is a fee we felt that we could pay it. It’s a mandatory fee, because not all F-1 visa students can afford the insurance policy they need to be eligible to play. The NJCAA Board of Regions requires them to have it.”
The C: If the insurance fee is mandatory, and some of the F-1 visa students could not afford it then why would the NJCAA determine that any rule was violated?
AB: “The national board said that it was a service that was beyond the aid of tuition, books, room and board, and meals, and we didn’t pay it for every student at GPC. So it was considered a violation. The rule is not written that way, but that is an interpretation of the rule by the NJCAA. So you cannot appeal the ruling, only the rule.”
The C: Why can’t GPC appeal the ruling?
AB: “We don’t need to appeal the rule, because the rule is in place.
This is what I told the soccer team, that we can’t appeal the ruling because we did not pay the fee for every student.
The school paying the fee for international students is a violation, because it paid for something that is considered above the care of a normal student athlete.
We paid it because it was mandated by the Board of Regions for every student athlete. When a student signs a scholarship we tell them that were are going to pay that fee.”
The C: Does the rule that was determined to be violated by the NJCAA deliver a poor inter- pretation of what is considered a violation of the actual rule?
AB: “There’s no question about it. There nowhere in the rulebook that says you can’t pay for medical insurance for international students.
Had we paid it for all students it wouldn’t have been a problem. It would have cost us more money, but we didn’t pay for all the students.
So, after meeting with the Vice President and President of the college and going through this, we determined that the rule doesn’t say what we did broke the rules it’s just their interpretation, and you can’t appeal based on the NJCAA’s interpretation of the rule, because there’s no rule to stand on.”
The C: How vague is the interpretation of the rule that you violated in the NJCAA rulebook?
AB: “They couldn’t even quote us the rule in the book. Only that it is beyond normal circumstances, and because it was a fee required by the Board of Regions. We saw no reason that we couldn’t pay for it.”
The C: If an appeal to the NJCAA was possible, what would grounds would the appeal be based on?
AB: “We were going to base our appeal on the fact that it does not say in the rulebook that you couldn’t pay for players insurance.
But, in our meeting we decided we couldn’t appeal it because the interpretation was too broad for the governing body of the NJCAA to find any reason to overrule the probation.”
The C: How does this affect the soccer team season, and the future of the program?
AB: “It’s unfortunate that the sophomores who were on the team last year, and the freshman on the team this year have to suffer to consequences of this ruling.
But somebody eventually has to pay the consequences. This is a good soccer team, but who suffers the penalty down the road, because the NJCAA is not going to change their minds.”
The C: How did Coach Z and the players handle the bad news?
AB: “They took the news hard, but I reminded them that they are good players.
Coaches are looking for good players whether you play in the tournament or not. If you’re a good player, a coach will find you.
All the tournament does is broaden your exposure to (NCAA) Division I and II.
Sometimes life deals you a hand you don’t want. I would love for them to be in the tournament because it’s great national exposure for GPC.
But we decided to do our probation this year, recover, and get it going again next year.”
The C: Where does the soccer team move on from here, and what is the goal for this season?
AB: “As an athlete you play for the love of the game. So I told them, ‘You can do one of two things. You can come together and say we can still finish the season undefeated, or you can go the op- posite way and say we’re not doing anything this season’.
It’s a tough decision, but you make tough decisions in life all the time. We do things that we’re supposed to do all the time, and things don’t work out all the time.
Wherever you go as a person when you get knocked down you get back up.
Here at GPC you’re not here just to play soccer you’re here to grow as a man, and not every decision you make is going to be a good decision. Everything doesn’t go your way.
If there was a way we could have changed this we would have done it.”
The C: Are you confident in the team’s ability to play for pride?
AB: “With the kind of young men that Mark Zagura recruited on this team, I would be shocked if they didn’t try to finish the year undefeated.”
The C: Will this violation affect recruiting in the future?
AB: “I don’t think it will, because Mark (Zagura) and the athletic program sells itself with a great reputation.
A lot of the kids we recruit are kids looking for a second chance. People can look at the record, and say they went undefeated and didn’t even go to the tournament that’s a school or coach they’d want to play for, because it’s not all about winning. It could be used as a motivational tool to be better.”
The C: What is the vision for GPC men’s soccer team for 2015?
AB: “Rebuilding from this season, and picking up where they left off.
We have some sophomores leaving us, but a team of freshmen who will return next year.
You can’t ask for a better institution for athletics or academics, and one of the most competitive junior colleges in athletics in the entire country.
We’re always in contention for our regional championships every year. And that is done by having good coaches and recruiting good players.”
The C: Is there anything you learned from this experience?
AB: “We won’t pay for the medical insurance for F-1 Visa students anymore. We’ve lost some recruits, because they can’t afford it, and we can’t pay it.”
The C: Will this team be in contention for the 2015 national championship?
AB: “Yes. Every year no matter who we put on that field.”