Plasencia struggled with redshirts, NCAA rules

by David La

Minnesota men’s cross country coach Steve Plasencia made a coaching error that affected the redshirt status of four of his runners this season.
Plasencia, recently voted 1999 Midwest Region cross country coach of the year, allowed four of his redshirt runners to compete in the Roy Griak Invitational — a scored competition — in September.
Their competition in the event thereby negated their chance to redshirt this season.
The NCAA guidelines list three situations in which an athlete is considered ineligible for redshirt status.
The first is to run in a competition with a school jersey. The second is to attend a meet in which the transportation costs are funded by the athletes’ school. The third is any case in which a runner competes at a scored meet.
When Minnesota hosted the Griak Invitational, redshirt freshmen Neil Hanson, Luke Mullranin and Ryan Mack, along with redshirt senior Jeremy Polson, ran in the men’s Maroon race.
Kansas cross country coach Gary Schwartz, whose team competed at the Griak Invitational, discovered the situation and spoke with Plasencia about it.
“I had a conversation with Steve that was professional in nature and I did not contact the NCAA,” Schwartz said.
To avoid a violation of the NCAA rules, Plasencia told his runners that they would need to drop their redshirt status for the season.
“There was some initial disappointment,” Plasencia said. “But people picked up the pieces pretty well and have gone on strongly from there.
“We didn’t want to be out of compliance and something was brought to our attention that was not in the NCAA manual,” Plasencia said. “It’s a very esoteric sort of situation.”
Coach Schwartz said he felt Plasencia made an honest mistake, and does not believe Plasencia attempted a flagrant violation of the rules.
“As crazy as the rules are, this happens more than you can believe by people who are trying to do it the right way,” Schwartz said.
Gophers freshman runner Ryan Mack stated that the news about his redshirt status change, “Was adisappointment.”
“There was a mix up,” he said. “But I harbor no grudges or anything against coach Plasencia, I think he’s an awesome coach. Things like that sometimes happen.”
While freshmen like Mack, Neil Hanson and Luke Mullranin can still use a redshirt season later in their Minnesota careers, senior Jeremy Polson will now have to make 1999 his final season.
An article in The Minnesota Daily in October stated that Polson made the decision to redshirt this season so that he could “work on becoming a stronger runner.”
Polson could not be reached for further comment, because the team was competing in Bloomington, Ind., at the NCAA championships on Monday.
Plasencia was quoted in the Oct. 1 article as saying, “There are a number of reasons why I asked Jeremy back; we needed him and Jeremy was willing to do it.”
Plasencia did not delve any further into those reasons at the time, one of which was the NCAA compliance issue.

David La Vaque covers football and basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]