By DAN GOLDMAN
In the wake of Wednesday's announcement that the Columbia College basketball program is on probation, the school's entire athletic program is now under review.
Men's basketball and women's volleyball Columbia's two Commission on Athletics-sanctioned sports are in danger of being eliminated and replaced by sports considered to be more popular with Mother Lode student-athletes, college President Dr. Jim Riggs said.
The basketball program was slapped with a minimum probation of one year after an internal investigation uncovered a number of violations, including student-athletes getting books on credit, living rent-free until financial aid checks were distributed and having their money managed by athletic department officials.
As a result, the basketball program is banned from postseason play in the 2003-04 season, and returning players might be ruled ineligible for the season if they benefited from the violations, as dictated by the Central Valley Conference's "zero tolerance" policy.
And stricter, self-imposed actions could follow once Riggs and Athletic Director George Railey have reviewed the situation. Their options include canceling the basketball team's '03-04 season entirely or the outright elimination of the basketball team and the women's volleyball team.
"We're looking at viability issues of fund-raising and sponsors," Riggs said. "With returning students being disqualified, what does that mean? What does it mean for students coming here specifically to play? Are they still coming here without postseason play?
"Wrapped in this whole evaluation is a look completely at the athletic program and what we need for this community and college. Are these the sports that are most tied to the local high schools? Are these the sports that give the kids from the Mother Lode area an opportunity to continue their play? Those are very fair questions."