Indian Hills Community College president Jim Lindenmeyer tried to do the right thing earlier this month when one of his players was thrown in jail following a brawl after a double overtime win over rival Southeastern.
Lindenmeyer didn't want to leave sophomore guard Ronald Ross behind 80 miles from the Indian Hills campus (both schools are in Iowa). So he bailed him out of jail. Ross was in jail because he was arrested for assaulting the son of Southeastern coach Terry Carroll during the brawl. Carroll's son is not a member of either program.
As Deadspin reported, it turns out school officials bailing a student-athlete out of jail is a violation of NJCAA rules.
That organization showed no mercy to everyone involved, suspending five Indian Hills players and head coach Barret Peery and four Southeastern players. It also put Indiana Hills on probation and declared the program ineligible for the postseason, ending its season. Indian Hills is ranked third in the nation and ends its season with a 26-4 record. .
This clearly wasn't a case where Lindenmeyer or anyone else at Indian Hills was trying to gain some kind of competitive advantage by breaking the rules. This was the school president making a reasoned, cautious decision he thought was in the best interest of his players by not leaving any of them behind. He then self-reported the violation to the NJCAA. He explained his decision making this way in a statement to the Ottumwa Courier, the local newspaper that covers Indian Hills regularly.
“Late Saturday after everyone was on their way home, I bailed a student-athlete out of jail,” he said in the statement. “I was unaware of the rule, but I knew that I did not want to leave a player behind at an out of town facility under those circumstances,” Lindenmeyer said. “I feel strongly that when we leave our campus with students in our care it is our duty to return them safely to campus. This is what I would expect of any staff member and what I would expect as a parent of a child under college supervision.”
This appears to be another example of a college sports governing body overreacting to a situation and botching its response. There is nothing wrong with suspending players and coaches for fighting. That has no place in the game at any level, but there have to be dozens of alternative punishments that could have doled out instead such as a fine that could be donated to an anti-violence educational program or organization. Punishing the entire program by declaring Indian Hills ineligible is unfair.