There are some very worried people in the Anne Arundel Community College athletic and physical education departments, and Athletic Director Buddy Beardmore and men's basketball coach Mark Amatucci are not among them.
A FBI agent has been sniffing around the Pioneers' Arnold campus in search of at least one person who apparently violated federal and state law by sending student records to a reporter and to the National Junior College Athletic Association without permission ofthe students.
It appears to have been a vindictive attempt on the part of the individual or individuals to taint what has been a spectacular 26-4 season for Amatucci's hoop team.
The whole thing started over a possible minor academic violation involving two players, one ofwhom has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the national association.
Unfortunately, the student-athletes' privacy was violated by someone who made copies of the student transcripts without their permission. Enter college president Dr. Thomas E. Florestano.
Florestano is livid, tosay the least, and has a right to be. After all, it's his job to protect the rights of his students, and that's what he is doing by ordering an investigation to uncover the violators. The community collegepresident intends to prosecute the guilty party or parties.
The other basketball player in question has met the student-athlete requirements and the question is not over his grades, but a date.
FormerMeade high school cager James Sharps took a coursehe needed, receiving a "B," and earning a 1.88 grade-point average. The national JuCo rules require a 1.75 for student-athletes.
"James did the work and did it in the prescribed time," said Amatucci.
It comes down to a question of when the Anne Arundel Community College academic term ends. The school has a fall semester lasting until Dec. 21, followed by a winter mini-semester running until Jan. 22 and, then, spring semester.
"At Anne Arundel first-yearstudents such as James can take that winter course and have it count on the fall semester," said Amatucci.
After receiving the transcript on Sharps, the National JuCo Association contacted the school and now is trying to decide if Sharps should have been allowed to continue playing while successfully attempting to raise his grades.
"It's a question of when Anne Arundel's term ends," said Amatucci. "We have sent the NJCAA written verification of our records and expect them to get back to us within a week.
"If they don't agree with us, we could lose one game at the most, but nobody monitors kids better than we do. Unfortunately there are some very jealous people around here hurting the school, Buddy's and myimage."
The vicious people involved have somewhat tainted the remarkable job turned in by
Amatucci, but they can't take away what the man has done. Even if one game is taken away because of apetty technicality that I think was blown out of proportion, it won't affect Anne Arundel's No. 3 national ranking in Division II junior college hoops nor its upcoming appearance in the Region XX tournament.
Amatucci is set to lead his Pioneers into the Region XX DivisionII JuCo Tournament starting Thursday. One of seven teams -- others being Prince George's, Dundalk, Frederick, Ohio Valley junior collegesand two from the Pittsburgh area -- Anne Arundel will play host to afirst-round game.
The semifinals and finals will be played over the weekend at Allegany Community College in Cumberland. Seedings willbe announced Sunday, and the region winner advances to the nationalsin Michigan theweekend of March 23.
Anne Arundel's team is capable of winning it all, and it's a shame that such a minute detail is putting the attention somewhere else. This is Amatucci's second straight 20-win season at Anne Arundel, but more importantly, his academic ideas have restored creditability to the Anne Arundel student-athlete.
With his outstanding background as an educator, first from his days at Calvert Hall High and Loyola College in Baltimore, Amatucci brought a breath of fresh air to Anne Arundel. He has worked long and hard to see to it that student-athletes, not just in basketball, but the entire program, are students first.
Amatucci's hands-on approachand intensity have resulted in Pioneer student-athletes going to class, getting good grades and ultimately preparing themselves for a college or university.
He took over a basketball program that was thepits and has turned it into a national power with guys who go to class. The total athletic budget has gone from $30,000 five years ago to $200,000, and you can salute Beardmore for that.
Prior to the arrival of Amatucci as coach and academic monitor and Beardmore as athletic director, the athletic program was the laughing stock of the county.
Student-athletes didn't stay eligible and some who didn't even go to class still played sports. It wasn't that way when the school's athletic program began over 20 years ago, but it sure went downhill during the '80s simply because of a lot of deadwood on the coaching staff.
Most of that deadwood has been swept out by the Beardmoreadministration, and that's where the heart of the problem lies.
For the past week, I've been getting anonymous phone calls on my 24-Hour Sportsline, 647-2499, deploring Florestano's attitude toward the obvious lawbreakers, and some of the callers said the president shouldvent his anger on Beardmore and Amatucci.
They have said that Florestanoshould be concerned that so many coaches have resigned and should blame Beardmore for that.
I agree that Beardmore should be blamed, but let's applaud him and Florestano.
Florestano intends to terminate once and for all the back-stabbing and bad feelings between the physical education staff and the athletic department staff.
Many of the former coaches have stayed at the school as physical education teachers because they have tenure. There is no question a few of them spend a lot of their time sniping at Beardmore and Amatucci.
The community college president deserves applause for vigorously going after the culprits who sought to smear Amatucci by using students and invading their privacy.
And since I didn't get to talk to you Beardmore/Amatucci bashers (you didn't leave your names and numbers), let me tell you that other than the hiring of Beardmore and Amatucci,the best thing that ever happened to the athletic department was therash of resignations.
Many of those former coaches were stale andhad lost their enthusiasm and caring for the student-athlete. That has changed dramatically under Beardmore and Amatucci.
The shame ofthis whole thing is that those who have stayed around chose not to work with the new regime, but rather to work against them.
Yes, I would say some people around there have a lot to worry about, but Beardmore and Amatucci can hold their heads high and, in the end, their contributions will shine through.