Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lineman Foketi says K-State won’t grant his transfer request

The Kansas City Star

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Even though Manase Foketi has one season of football eligibility remaining, his time at Kansas State is over.

Foketi, a left tackle, graduated with a degree in criminal justice in May, and is currently living in Fontana, Calif., with his family. He hasn’t worked out with the K-State football team since spring practices ended, and while his teammates have been on campus for summer school he has been exercising at his former junior college, waiting to be released from his scholarship.

But that may never happen.

Foketi, a 6-foot-5, 300-pounder who started 13 games at left tackle as a junior and opened his senior year in 2011 as a starter before suffering a season-ending injury early on, said he requested his release two months ago. K-State will not grant him one.

“I want to move on and close this chapter in my life, but they aren’t letting me. They are blocking me and have denied my transfer request,” Foketi said by phone. “I have no hard feelings toward them, but it’s just the way it is. If someone isn’t comfortable somewhere they should have the right to leave. I don’t know how they are able to hold me.”

Foketi said his request was initially denied by K-State football coach Bill Snyder and that he appealed that decision. He said he was informed earlier this week on a conference call with athletic director John Currie, Snyder and academic personnel that his request was still denied.

K-State makes it clear in its student-athlete handbook that transfers aren’t always granted. The handbook reads: “Except for the most compelling of circumstances, which place an undue burden on the student athlete, it is the policy of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics not to grant a release for purposes of a transfer.”

Wildcats basketball players have been granted transfer releases for various reasons in recent years. But football players have found the process more difficult. For example, K-State denied a transfer release for former wide receiver/running back LaMark Brown two years ago before he landed at Division II Minnesota State.

In this case, the debate seems to center around Foketi’s injury and the medical redshirt he was given afterward.

“They were saying that I owe it to K-State to play another year for them,” Foketi said. “It was something dumb like that. I got hurt and they gave me my year back and now they want me to play my senior year for them. They say I owe them.

“Well, I’ve never redshirted before. This was my first redshirt year. It’s not like they had to fight for it. I’ve got my degree. I don’t see what else there is to do at Kansas State.”

Currie did not return a message on a cell phone seeking comment. A K-State spokesman said Snyder was unavailable for comment.

Foketi said he began seeking a transfer for two main reasons. First, his relationship with offensive line coach Charlie Dickey began deteriorating after he got hurt. Foketi said Dickey regularly reminded him of how well K-State performed with Foketi on the sideline. He didn’t feel like he fit into their scheme moving forward.

“Me and him always bumped heads,” Foketi said.

Second, he has a desire to finish his college career closer to home.

He thinks both are acceptable reasons for seeking a transfer, and says he will contact the NCAA about further appeal options.

Foketi hoped to obtain a waiver that would take advantage of his graduate status, and allow him to transfer to another Division I program and play right away as long as the new school offered a graduate program not available at K-State.

But without consent from K-State’s athletic department, he may only be able to transfer to a lower level. Though Foketi has only played three full seasons of college football – two at Mt. San Antonio College in Hesperia, Calif., and one at K-State – his eligibility expires in one year. Without a waiver, Division I athletes have five years to complete four years of eligibility. He can’t sit out a year and continue playing in 2013, as would be the case with most transfers.

An NCAA spokesman said Foketi may be able to transfer to a Division II school and play next year regardless of his status with K-State. Though not the ideal path for someone who has proven himself in the Big 12, Foketi said he would gladly explore such an option if it meant he could continue playing.

The only place he says he won’t play next year is K-State.

“I am 100 percent leaving,” Foketi said. “After all this stuff, there is no way I am going back.”

Had Foketi decided to return, he would have likely played a key role on K-State’s offensive line. He would have been one of the most experienced players of the group, and could have anchored the unit alongside standout sophomore B.J. Finney.

His departure will be viewed by some as a big loss. Foketi doesn’t think that’s a reason he should have to stay.

“I’ve done all the right things,” Foketi said. “It’s not like I’ve done anything illegal. I was a starter, I went to all my classes, I graduated and I put in my transfer request. I don’t understand why they blocked everything.”

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