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Scholarship lost

Farella says Baker dropped ball

September 8, 2012
By CHUCK BALLARO - Special to the Breeze , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Right now, Mary Farella should be playing soccer as a freshman at Alabama A&M, without a worry about how to pay for books, room or board thanks to her soccer scholarship.

Instead, she's back home, attending Edison College and wondering if she'll ever play college soccer.

Farella contends that Ida Baker High School, specifically assistant principal Debbie Diggs, didn't send the necessary transcripts to the NCAA in time to make her eligible to play this season.

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It was a happier day in February when Mary Farella signed a college letter-of-intent to play soccer on a full scholarship at Alabama A&M in front of an assembly of classmates at Ida Baker High School.

As a result, she was suspended for the season and her scholarship held up so she can take the courses she needs to become eligible again.

Diggs, however, contends that with any scholarship student or parent, they must know what core requirements are necessary before they apply for a scholarship or recruited to receive one.

Diggs also said the school offers several workshops every year to help students and parents get through the process easier.

Farella says she got no help from the school.

"It's ridiculous. I shouldn't be here now," Farella said. "I lost it all because the school didn't do its job."

Farella's dreams seemed to be coming true. Her Bulldogs won the state title last season and she received a scholarship to play at Division I Alabama A&M.

Her nightmare was about to begin. Farella, who admits she struggles at times with her studies, claims Diggs never sent the transcripts to the NCAA Eligibility Center, which were needed in order to clear her to play.

"During the spring, the NCAA asked the school to send the transcripts. They never got them. I kept asking to send them to the NCAA and school. They never got them the first or second time I asked," Farella said.

Mary said she and her parents went to the college for orientation, already enrolled, and discovered the school still hadn't delivered the paperwork.

This resulted in repeated trips to Alabama to get things straightened out in hopes of getting enrolled.

Mary's mother said it took for them to go to the Lee County school board to get the transcripts and bring them to the school, but then another problem arose. Mary was short on her core courses.

At issue was a math course she took that still left her one credit short. Farella could have taken a summer course that would have given her all her core courses and restore her eligibility.

Because the family contends Diggs didn't send the transcripts to the NCAA in time, Farella didn't know she was a credit short until it was too late.

"If the NCAA got a response in March or April, she could have made up the credit over the summer and would have been good to go," Mrs. Farella said.

As a result, Mary was suspended for the year. She also lost a year of eligibility (her "red-shirt" year) and cannot transfer to any other Division I or II school.

If she wanted to attend Alabama A&M, she would have to pay for it herself, which is about $28,000 a year. If she wanted to play volleyball, it would have to be as a walk-on.

"I lost a math credit for nothing. I didn't make Division I requirements," Farella said. "The school never did its job and my advisors did nothing."

"Diggs didn't respond until after the school year started on Aug. 10 or 11. She was supposed to respond before school ended," Mrs. Farella said.

Diggs said she could not comment on Farella's case. However, she did discuss how scholarships generally work, saying they're all different and therefore all have certain requirements that students and parents must be aware of.

"You need to know the eligibility requirements. They all have unique criteria, sometimes multiple criteria they have to meet," Diggs said. "They need to determine the criteria that must be met. Oftentimes, more than one eligibility requirement causes a scholarship to be invalid."

As for athletic scholarships, Diggs said the criteria for Division I and II schools are different, and she doesn't know what school a student has been selected for unless the student tells them.

But, finding out the requirements is as easy as clicking a mouse.

"Anyone can log on and see what the kids should do and what core courses count and which ones do not," Diggs said.

Diggs said the school offers two scholarship nights and two lab nights for parents, where they give out the information and web sites they need to get the scholarship process going.

Transcripts usually are handled by the school. It's just a matter of where the student wants them sent, Diggs said. Most transcripts are sent by mail, though in-state public colleges can have them sent electronically, Diggs said.

Alabama A&M women's soccer coach Frank Davies wouldn't comment on Farella's situation, saying it was an NCAA issue.



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