By BRENDAN SHEA
As the Olympic Games in Athens drew to a close last week, women’s volleyball coach Melinda Wrye-Washington waited for the arrival of Kenyan Olympian Nancy Nyongesa to Columbia College.
Nyongesa, 17, from Nairobi, never made it to Missouri, though.
“She kind of just disappeared on us,” Wrye-Washington said.
When Nyongesa failed to arrive at Columbia College last week, Wrye-Washington began making phone calls. She soon learned from the Kenyan Olympic delegation that Nyongesa left Athens with coach Dave Moody of Dickinson (N.D.) State University.
Moody traveled to Greece to pick up a prospective player for the Blue Hawks volleyball team, Wrye-Washington said. But when that recruitment fell through, Moody turned to Nyongesa, she said.
“We spoke to her (Aug. 20) by phone,” she said. “And then she was on a plane to Dickinson the next day.”
Nyongesa had signed a letter of intent to play volleyball at Columbia College for the 2004-05 academic year, but Wrye-Washington said the contract was not binding.
“They’re claiming she had a change of heart,” Wrye-Washington said. “I don’t even know what happened at this point.”
Nyongesa could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Wrye-Washington said she wonders how another institution was able to get Nyongesa’s records.
With stricter regulations established after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, she said she believes student visas and I-20 forms, school-issued certificates of eligibility for students to study in the United States, are supposed to be sealed in an envelope that can be opened only by a U.S. Custom Service agent.
“It’s a little frustrating as a coach, knowing we did everything by the book,” Wrye-Washington said.
Matt Fry, director of legislative services at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, said the association’s recruitment policies give coaches a lot of freedom to contact prospective students. He said they are not the same guidelines followed by the National Collegiate Athletics Association, which tend to be much stricter.
“But we do hold all our coaches to high ethical standards,” he said.
According to NAIA bylaws, “A coach or another representative of a member institution shall not initiate contact with an athlete who has enrolled at another institution.”
There is no evidence that the bylaws were violated since Nyongesa is not enrolled at Columbia College.
Fry said he has not been notified of any improper conduct by any institution and that there will be no action taken until a formal allegation is sent to the NAIA office and properly documented.
“If a student makes a commitment to an NAIA institution and the other institution is aware of that commitment and continues to recruit them, that may be grounds for an investigation under the Coaches Code, and Code of Conduct and Ethics,” he said.
Wrye-Washington declined to say whether she or Columbia College would file a complaint.
Moody, who was named NAIA National Championships Coach of the Year in 2000, refused to offer details regarding the recruitment.
“I guess the thing is, whatever transpired is more between Nancy and the coach,” he said.
Megan Anderson, a freshman Blue Hawks volleyball player, said Nyongesa arrived in Dickinson either Aug. 23 or 24, a couple weeks after volleyball practice began. She said Moody has not revealed any information regarding the recruitment of Nyongesa.
“I have no idea about her history whatsoever,” Anderson said.