AWC football forfeits five games
A small oversight is going to cost the Arizona Western College football team five wins and a shot at league championship.
A nearly two-week audit of the football program by the National Junior College Athletic Association ended Monday in the Matadors forfeiting five of their seven wins this year.
According to athletic director Jerry Smith, the penalty was due to transfer waivers that were not received for two football players who came to the school from other junior colleges.
"It's extremely unfortunate, and we're very upset at allowing the situation to happen," Smith said. "But there's nothing for us to do but take full blame because it was our responsibility to make sure we had it all. Once we knew we didn't have it, within 12 hours we had it."
Smith said he had hoped for leniency from the league office due to what he said was the minor nature of the infraction. But the NJCAA does not have any recourse other than forfeits, unlike the NCAA, which governs most four-year institutions and can assess probation or loss of scholarships before forcing teams to surrender wins.
"The national office is looking into not having such a harsh penalty for a such a small infraction," Smith said. "The only method they have is forfeiture of games."
Smith has been with AWC for nine years and has spent almost 50 years associated with the NJCAA. He said this is the first time any of his programs had to forfeit games because of paperwork issues.
"We felt like it was too severe, but obviously we're not in a position to debate that issue. I wish we were. We're just not," Smith said.
Instead of heading into the top tier of the Western States football playoffs with a 7-2 overall record and a chance to win the league title, the Matadors go into the consolation bracket with a 2-7 mark.
The Matadors will still be able to play in the El Toro Bowl if the game's selection committee decides to choose them. NJCAA Assistant Executive Director Mark Krug said there is a common misconception that the NJCAA requires bowl teams to win six games or finish at .500
"That exists in the NCAA, but we do not have a rule on the book that requires a team to have six wins or be over .500 to be eligible for a bowl," Krug said. "That is not defined within our by-laws, so if that bowl committee out there wishes to have that game and have AWC in it, they can certainly do that."
The sanctions came as a result of a routine audit by the NJCAA.
"We audit 20 percent of all sports, and our member colleges are very aware of that process," Krug said.
However, Krug said he couldn't say how many audits each year result in forfeits.
"Some years very few things pop up with a sport, and other years it's quite a bit," Krug said. "So from year-to-year it can vary so drastically; it's not fair to put a number on that."
The ruling affects the first five games of the Matador season. Wins against Pima, Eastern Arizona, Phoenix College, Everett (Wash.) and Mesa were forfeited, leaving the only two wins this year against Glendale on Oct. 5 and New Mexico Military on Oct. 12.
The forfeits may also affect the quality of AWC's opponent in the El Toro Bowl. Instead of facing a top 10 team, any potential opponent would be playing a team that has, at most, four wins. The Matadors start the WSFL playoffs Nov. 2 at Snow – site of a 41-28 loss on Saturday – and with a win will likely travel to Pima.
"It will have some effect (on the El Toro Bowl), that's for sure. We'll just have to wait and see," Smith said. "It's too early to tell. But here's the deal. People know we're a good football team and they know we've won several games and played good competition."