Kansas State is standing by its controversial decision to deny a transfer request for talented guard Leticia Romero in a case that has drawn national interest.
Romero, an All-Big 12 freshman from Spain, sought a release from her scholarship after the school fired Deb Patterson, the coach who had recruited her. Once denied, she took her case before an appeals committee last month that also turned down her request without providing a reason.
In a letter that surfaced Wednesday, athletic director John Currie indicated he was concerned that there was tampering involved with Romero’s decision to leave the school, and that members of the former staff members may have been “shopping” her in return for coaching positions.
Patterson and former assistants Kamie Ethridge, Kelly Moylan and Shalee Lehning have since been hired by Northern Colorado, with Ethridge to serve as the head coach of the program.
Currie told university administrator Pat Bosco in the letter, first obtained by The Manhattan Mercury, that he spoke at length with Romero about the tampering concerns and “she was direct that this was not the case.” Romero also told Currie she was not going to Northern Colorado.
Currie also said that he spoke with new Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie, and that Mittie believed it would be in the best interests of the program if Romero was allowed to transfer.
“Although it is unprecedented,” Currie wrote, “I believe that it is in this student-athlete’s best interest for the committee to reconvene to consider this new information and potentially approve her request for a conditional transfer release.”
Kansas state officials have declined to comment on the case, citing student privacy laws. But in a statement late Wednesday, vice president Jeffrey Morris maintained the appeals committee’s ruling is “final and binding, and there is no university procedure to re-examine one of those decisions.
“Thus, the university process concludes with the appeals committee’s decision.”
The school’s decision has been lambasted by critics ranging from Dick Vitale to fellow college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, who has tweeted several times in Romero’s support.
Romero recently retained Alabama attorney Donald Jackson to represent her in the case.
Until she is granted a release, Romero is barred from receiving a scholarship at another Division I university for a year and prohibited from having any contact with another coach.
Kansas State’s policy states that “except for the most compelling of circumstances, which place an undue burden on the student athlete, it is the policy of the department of intercollegiate athletics not to grant a release for the purposes of a transfer or provide the one-time transfer exception.”
Yet, just in the last few years, Kansas State has approved multiple transfers. Point guard Angel Rodriguez secured his release prior to last season and wound up at Miami, while quarterback Daniel Sams secured a condition release to transfer closing to his home in Louisiana.
Romero averaged a team-leading 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists last season, the lone bright spot in an otherwise dismal season. The Wildcats finished 11-19 overall, 5-13 in the Big 12, and lost in overtime to rival Kansas in the conference tournament.