For more than a month it was evident that something unpleasant was happening in the Santa Monica College football program.
Several months ago Coach Robert Taylor had asked me to meet him at John Adams Middle School when practice began because he enjoys our annual session when he reveals his roster. But when I called to arrange the appointment, he didn’t call back.
A half dozen calls to new athletic director Gregg Simmons weren’t returned either. On the seventh try I talked to a secretary who said he was due in at 1 p.m. I called several more times that afternoon and he wasn’t there.
Finally I tried head basketball coach Jerome Jenkins, left a message and didn’t hear back.
Over the past weekend it became clear why nobody at SMC wanted to talk about what was occurring — an investigation of serious charges into the football program.
Taylor has been dismissed as coach although he will remain at the college as a physical education instructor, and the SMC program has been banned from playoffs this season and placed on three years probation.
It won’t be worse than that because SMC admitted guilt and self-imposed penalties, but it is bad enough to leave the program in disarray. The opening game is a few weeks away and recruiting for the next few years is likely to suffer.
“I, along with our senior administrators, take ownership of the problems identified and intend to continue to show through both our words and actions that SMC is acting responsibly to address the serious issues that have emerged.” said SMC president Chui Tsang in a statement.
In most cases winning programs draw inspection, but SMC is not in that category. The team has floundered in recent seasons, with only six wins since 2007. Now those victories have been forfeited.
The investigation centered on charges that addresses of out-of-state players were falsified, allowing them to pay the much lower tuition charged in-state students.
The Corsair roster last season was a mixture of local and out-of-state players, a common occurrence in community college sports.
But as the loses have mounted, a perception has grown among local high school players that SMC isn’t anywhere close to the power it was earlier during Taylor’s 15 years. Taylor’s SMC teams then included future NFL receivers Isaac Bruce, Steve Smith, and Chad Johnson.
An example of the changing times is the presence of linebacker Mike Siebold at West Los Angeles College now.
Siebold attended Santa Monica High, showed vast promise in practice but seldom played due to a knee injury.
The 220-pound linebacker, a ferocious hitter with speed, stayed out of football for a few years, and then intended to play for SMC last season. However, it was a mutual decision that he wasn’t quite ready and would probably be a reserve behind all-conference Charles Hatchett.
Siebold went on a training program with the intention of playing for SMC this season. But when summer workouts began he enrolled at West LA, which went 5-5 last season in Marquay Miller’s first season as head coach.
Asked to name his half dozen key players recently, Miller included Siebold on the list.
That doesn’t mean other SMC recruits are leaving. Running back Christian Ross from Samohi says he’s staying.
But a program on probation is likely to struggle in recruiting. Players want exposure, such as playing in bowl games, and they want to play on winning teams.
Since SMC doesn’t even have a sports information director, no announcement has been made about who will be the head football coach this season.