Speared

Jamie Warren claims his football coach at Scottsdale Community College ran a drill in which he was speared in the back during practice. The ugly incident has unleashed a flood of allegations in Artichoke land.

The spearing incident triggered a wave of accusations -- by past and present SCC players and other people associated with the team -- of improper activities in the SCC football program. New Times has found substantial evidence to support some of those allegations, including:

• Football coaches taped over the videotape of the August 14 practice that may have showed the spearing incident.

• Out-of-state players have been improperly recruited by Giovando and his assistants to come to SCC. Maricopa Community College District rules forbid out-of-state recruitment of football players.

SCC head football coach Ken Giovando.
Paolo Vescia
SCC head football coach Ken Giovando.
Don Pitt, the lineman who was ordered to slam into Warren's back.
Paolo Vescia
Don Pitt, the lineman who was ordered to slam into Warren's back.

• Football players say they were paid for work they never did under a federally funded work-study program operated by the football team.

• Players were required to purchase athletic apparel, including practice shirts, shorts and traveling shirts, from coaches. The college has failed to produce accounting records on the receipts and sales of these products while stating the sales should not have been handled by coaches.

• Head coach Giovando incited and encouraged his players to engage in unsportsmanlike conduct during a 1999 game against Mesa Community College, including making obscene gestures to the opposing team prior to kickoff. The game degenerated into a slugfest with more than 400 yards in personal foul penalties.

Dean of students Stahl appears to be supporting the coaches' version of the incident involving Warren, which apparently is being depicted as a routine drill. In the meantime, she's trying to keep details of the investigation under wraps.

"Until we finish with our own investigation, it will be better for everyone if it stays in-house; all of that comes out in-house, and then the appropriate action by the college is taken," Stahl says.

Much of the criticism being leveled by current and former players is directed at Giovando and his longtime assistant, Rodgers.

Giovando has coached at SCC since 1973, serving in various roles including offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. He became head coach in 1996. The University of Arizona graduate and football letterman is the only defensive lineman in Wildcats history to record two interceptions in the same game, against Brigham Young in 1964.

Sanford Lee Rodgers joined Giovando in 1993 at SCC after spending 10 seasons at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, where he coached offensive and defensive lines. Rodgers and Giovando met at Arizona in 1963.

The two men have formed a tight relationship. While a steady stream of assistant coaches have come and gone from SCC the past four years, Giovando and Rodgers remain the core of the coaching staff. Giovando receives a $6,794-a-year stipend from SCC as head coach, while Rodgers earns $4,157.

The pay seems almost incidental compared to the hours spent on the practice field, reviewing film, going to high schools to scout players and coaching home and away football games for a school that generates sparse crowds.

The football coaching staff is overseen by athletic director Art Becker, a star basketball player at Arizona State University in the mid-1960s. Sources say Becker learned of the incident involving Warren the next day, but did not seek to review the videotape of the practice or interview the players involved.

Stahl learned details about the practice from Warren and his cousin, Tony Franklin, who met with Stahl on August 18. Stahl then began an investigation into the incident, but appears to be ill-prepared to conduct a probe because of her fundamental lack of understanding football.

For example, she offers a very narrow definition of spearing -- a definition provided to her by the football coaches.

"Spearing is where there is a pileup of players, when they got the ball and somebody has been tackled and there is a whole pile of them, and when someone comes in headfirst leading with the helmet, that's spearing," she says.

When asked if that is the only definition of spearing the coaches have provided her, Stahl giggles and says, "Yeah, I'm learning a lot about football."

In actuality, spearing occurs any time a blocker, tackler or ball carrier hits another player with the crown of the helmet.

While SCC appears to be making a halfhearted attempt to investigate the Warren incident, there is no doubt how SCC archrival Mesa Community College would handle allegations of spearing encouraged by coaches during practice, says MCC athletic director Allen Benedict.

"If that happened in my program, first I would check it out and verify it. If it was done, I would ask the coach for his resignation," Benedict says. "I don't want that type of coach."

Investigating the SCC incident has become more difficult because the videotape of the practice has been erased, Stahl says.

"We have four practice videotapes," Stahl says. "Each of the practices is about four hours long. Those are retaped every night. The occurrence that Jamie is talking about happened on a Monday night. I was not informed of the tape until Friday."

Stahl says by the time she asked the football team for the tape, it had been erased.

"The tape is used over and over," she says. "It was retaped on the 15th, the 16th and on the 17th. It was retaped when I called and asked them, 'Find this tape.' They went through the tapes and they said, 'It does not exist, we taped over them already three times.'"

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