POWELL, Wyo. - Northwest College Men’s Basketball Coach Brian Erickson faces a one-game suspension following word yesterday of a National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) sanction for an off-season activity violation that occurred this summer, the college announced today.
The sanction placed on NWC requires Erickson to miss the first official game of NWC’s 2013-14 season later this fall, according to a Sept. 17 letter NJCAA Assistant Executive Director Brian D. Beck sent to NWC Interim Athletic Director Jim Zeigler. The first official game is against Bismarck State College on Friday, Nov. 1, during a tournament at Miles Community College in Miles City, Mont.
The unauthorized activity occurred on July 28 when Erickson allowed student-athlete Franklin Uzonwanne to ride in a college vehicle from Billings Logan International Airport to Powell where Uzonwanne was living during the summer. An international student from Delta, Nigeria, Uzonwanne competed for the Trapper Men’s Basketball Team as a freshman last year. He had flown to Billings at his own expense after attending the 2013 All-American JUCO Showcase Camp in Las Vegas, Nev. Erickson had also been at the camp and was on the same return flight into Billings.
Article VIII, Section 6.G.3 of NJCAA Bylaws states that “no college funds may be used for any current or prospective student during the off-season.”
“It’s important to note that the college provided no monetary aid to Franklin—he paid his own air fare, lodging, meals and registration fee for the showcase,” Zeigler said.
In the letter to Zeigler, Beck said the violation must be sanctioned because the student-athlete “. . . received a benefit that they possibly would not have been able to receive had a representative of the college not stepped in.”
“This is unfortunate for Coach Erickson as he starts his first full year as head coach, but we support the NJCAA Bylaws,” Zeigler said. “While I’ve heard that this type of minor violation can simply draw a ‘warning’ from the NJCAA, we will comply with the sanction. We appreciate the NJCAA’s work to preserve the integrity, fair play and education of our student-athletes.”
Erickson served as interim men’s basketball coach last year and was hired into the position after a spring 2013 national search to fill the position.
“I deeply regret that this occurred and don’t want it to cause any damage to the player, team or the college,” Erickson said. “As a new head coach, I was unaware of this specific rule. That’s no excuse, and I take full responsibility. It’s a painful learning experience, and I’ll follow the sanction in every detail.”
The sanction states that Erickson “. . . may not be in or around the competition venue either before or during the contest on the day of the competition.” The sanction goes on to say that Erickson “may not travel with the team to any contests until the suspension has been served in full.”
Zeigler said in a follow-up phone call with Beck, he learned that the sanction, including travel with the team, is only for “official” contests, not scrimmages the Trappers open their season with in late October.