Bellevue baseball is down, but not out (yet)

Mistakes are a common thing among humans these days. They happen. However, a mistake that leads to the forfeiture of most of a season is simply inexcusable.

Bellevue University (Neb.) was recently informed by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national office in Kansas City, Mo. that they were going to have to forfeit games in its baseball season that had them ranked No. 6 in the country with a 35-7 record. The Bruins had won 30 of its last 31 games and were the top seed in the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament. The decision to force Bellevue to forfeit the season left them with no official conference wins and disqualified from the conference tournament. The Bruins were not forced to forfeit every game. They are now 2-40 overall and 0-20 in conference play, according to the conference ratings.

The player in question is Omaha native, Jon Reed. He played two seasons at Iowa Western CC, before transferring to Sam Houston State, where he started 36 games. Now Reed is finishing his career at Bellevue.

The MCAC has submitted its conference ratings with Bellevue No. 1. With that being done, York College (Neb.) cannot be rated ahead of the Bruins in the national poll.

In a statement released by Bellevue athletic director Ed Lehotak, he said,
“This is a very unfortunate situation and we all feel terrible for the student-athletes and the entire program. However, we are committed to doing what is right and maintaining the integrity of the University and the athletic program.”

Lehotak went on to say,
“A student-athlete on the baseball team was certified as eligible based on information we received at the beginning of the season. After an inquiry was made into his eligibility, it was revealed that Bellevue did not obtain a formal release from the transfer institution. After this information came to light, Bellevue University was forthright in self-reporting the infraction to the NAIA. Although we are disappointed in the severity of the penalty, Bellevue University is committed to being a Champions of Character institution.”

According to Lehotak, Bellevue is still eligible for the NAIA national championship tournament, because they were not banned, suspended or put on probation. The university is submitting an appeal to have the decision reversed. The appeal will have to be looked at right away and a decision made by the end of the week. If the NAIA does not reverse the decision, the Bruins must be rated high enough to grab an At-Large berth into the tournament. The ideal spot of Bellevue would be to remain in the top 20 when the poll is released later today (May 5).

Does the team deserve a chance at the national tournament?

“That’s a matter of opinion. We think they are a great group of kids and the punishment was too harsh,” said Lehotak in a phone conversation.

Lehotak said if the team was to qualify for the national tournament Jon Reed would “probably not” be eligible to play for the Bruins. This, of course, is if the appeals process does not work in favor of the Bruins.

Will there be further disciplinary actions taken at Bellevue?

“That is an internal matter.” Lehotak said.

The school has launched an internal investigation to find out where the mistake was made. The process is expected to take at least a couple of weeks before a decision is reached.

A phone call and email to Scott McClure, NAIA Manager of Championship Sports, were not immediately returned.

The wait is on. How will the rankings come out this afternoon? Will the Bruins still get a chance to prove they are one of the best teams in the country? Or has a simple mistake cost the No. 6 team in the country (according to the latest poll) its season?

It is an unfortunate situation at Bellevue University. Is it right to punish the entire team? That is up to you to decide.

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