Coach says community still supports sports

May 11, 2003 11:00 pm

By DAN GOLDMAN

Embattled Columbia College basketball coach Andrew Vasher returned from a three-day coaches' clinic yesterday with new ideas on practicing, playing and coaching.

The question now is whether he'll have the opportunity to implement those lessons learned with the Claim Jumpers.

Vasher and the basketball program are on shaky ground after Wednesday's announcement that the program has been placed on probation for at least one year.

An internal investigation turned up numerous violations of Central Valley Conference and Commission on Athletics bylaws, including members of the athletic department handling student money, student athletes getting textbooks on credit and housing violations.

Although terms of Columbia's probation include a ban from postseason play in 2003-04 and the possible ineligibility of returning players if they are found to have profited from the violations, the Claim Jumpers will be allowed to field a team and play during the regular season next year.

But one day after the probation announcement, school President Dr. Jim Riggs put the future of the basketball program in doubt by saying that he and Athletic Director George Railey will consider every option — including elimination of the basketball and women's volleyball programs — after they conduct a review of the investigation's findings.

"Wrapped in this whole evaluation is a look completely at the athletic program and what we need for this community and college," Riggs said Thursday. "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."

Although Vasher said a confidentiality clause in his contract prohibits him from commenting on the specific nature of the violations, he acknowledges that violations did occur.

However, he said, they were not severe enough to warrant the elimination of the program, and there is still plenty of support for the school's athletics throughout the community.