Confusion over future of Concordia athletics

Published 5:10 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Miscommunication in an email between Concordia College Alabama President Dr. Tilahun Mendedo and Vice President of Student Services Don Jefferson caused quite an uproar Wednesday.

According to Abby Campbell, CCA’s director of public relations, Mendedo and Jefferson were discussing the college’s athletics budget in an email Tuesday night and one of Mendedo’s replies was misinterpreted to say that the college was cancelling all of its athletic programs.

Jefferson sent that information to the college’s coaches, who then told their players. From there, a student, or students at the college, posted the information on a Facebook page for Concordia students and the chaos began.

“There were some sports that were supposed to travel out of town this week for away games,” Campbell said. “The travel budget for the teams comes out of the athletics budget, and Dr. Mendedo said that we should cancel some of the away games because it wouldn’t make sense in our budget to travel to all of these far away games. He said we will cancel these few games, and for some reason the VP of student services took that to mean we are going to cancel all athletics.”

Part of the reason for the confusion is that Mendedo was out of town and on an airplane and unreachable during most of the day Wednesday. Students said that Jefferson led a meeting in the school’s auditorium Wednesday morning, telling them that the athletics program had been cancelled. Later in the day, students said that information was changed to say the programs were suspended.

“[Dr. Jefferson] was on the mic and he told us that everything was cancelled,” said a Concordia student-athlete, who asked to speak on the condition of anonymity. “Then, after a certain amount of students got up and left out because we were mad.”

Campbell said the school was working Wednesday afternoon to inform students that the athletics program would continue.

“The president was disappointed that our VP of student services sent that email out without getting permission to do so,” Campbell said. “He just jumped the gun and made a mistake.”

Jefferson was reached Wednesday afternoon before Campbell got official word from the president. At the time, he said he was still waiting to hear officially from Mendedo. Jefferson could not be reached for comment after Campbell reported the miscommunication that took place.

Campbell said some of the school’s upcoming away games may be cancelled to help the school stay within budget, but that she wasn’t aware of any cancellations yet.

“Everything is operating as normal,” Campbell said. “They may cancel some of the away games because they won’t fit in our budget like we thought it would eventually.”

Concordia’s football team is scheduled to travel to Edward Waters, which is located in Jacksonville, Florida for a game on Saturday. Henry Smith, Edward Waters sports information director, said he talked to a coach from Concordia College Alabama Monday to get a roster and that he had not been asked to cancel the game. Concordia football coach Stanley Conner could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Concordia’s volleyball team was also scheduled to host a match Wednesday night against Talladega College.

Although the news ended up being false, it created a stir around Concordia’s campus. Students weren’t sure what to believe and administrators were confused as well.

A security guard told a member of the Times-Journal that no visitors were allowed on campus Wednesday.

Students said they were also told not to talk to the media about what was going on.

“A couple of coaches told me I could be suspended and I could get in trouble for coming to you guys [media] about this issue,” said a second student-athlete at Concordia, who asked to speak on the condition of anonymity.

Campbell said there’s no truth to that.

“That has not been communicated to students whatsoever,” Campbell said.