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Umpqua Community College brings in legal counsel to contest sanctions by NWAC

Basketball players at Umpqua Community College.
RiverHawk TV - YouTube Channel
The UCC Riverhawks men's basketball team plays against Clark College in 2022.

Umpqua Community College has hired an attorney to fight sanctions imposed on it by the Northwest Athletic Conference.

The matter touches on several alleged violations. Some involve housing arrangements for men’s basketball players, and issuing improper letters-of-intent to the athletes as well.

UCC President Rachael Pokrandt told KLCC the college has accepted some findings, but feels the sanctions unjustly hurt students.

“It always sounds a little bit scary when there’s an attorney involved, but the truth is we’d really like to come to the table and work with the NWAC,” she said. “We’re very proud to be a part of the NWAC conference and we’d like to work with them to find some middle ground on this, again so it doesn’t unduly hurt students.

Sanctions include having the UCC men’s basketball team barred from NWAC playoffs for two seasons, as well as a $15,000 fine.

Pokrandt says there’s no exact timeline for the legal process.

She says one violation they’re contesting is about offering in-state tuition to athletes, which NWAC alleges was done without recipients offering any proof of residency. Oregon state statuteallows the UCC board to set tuition rates.

“The NWACs does not have jurisdiction over that, that’s in local control,” said Pokrandt.

As to whether or not the sanctions will affect UCC’s standing in the conference, Pokrandt said she believes UCC will always have a strong athletic profile. She says the college always appreciates the opportunity to improve, but again said the sanctions are affecting students that had no part in the alleged violations.

The Northwest Athletic Conference is an association of community colleges. According to its website, the conference includes 36 schools in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.