The Star has made numerous requests for the records since 2007 under the Alabama Open Records Act. Every time, the school has denied the request on similar grounds.
“The NCAA considers that confidential,” JSU athletics director Warren Koegel said Thursday. “I do, because everywhere I’ve been, we’ve had the same request, and the university has said it’s confidential information.”
As with its previous requests, The Star did not seek identities of violators, which are confidential, but rather the data relating to the number of tests administered during the requested period, the number of positive results and the substances found in those positive results.
The NCAA publishes a long list of prohibited substances, including alcohol, narcotics and performance-enhancing drugs.
Acting university counsel Sam Monk and Koegel assured The Star the results of the Gamecocks’ drug testing were “very positive,” but would not provide substantiating data. In 2008, university attorney Randy Woodrow told The Star the school “not only meets, but exceeds” all NCAA rules and regulations regarding the tests, but, again, with no corroborating data.
JSU has strengthened its drug-testing program and policies in recent years, but as recently as five years ago sources within the athletic department told The Star the school had limited or even no testing of athletes in its programs.
“We’re not trying to hide anything, we’re just doing what we’ve been told to do everywhere I’ve ever been,” Koegel said. “That kind of thing the NCAA strongly recommends because this is confidential in nature; they should not go to anybody … So, we’re adamant about that one.”
Bob Davis, editor of The Star, termed the university’s decision a “disappointment,” adding, “We contend that by releasing the raw drug-testing, free of any names of athletes and their sports, the university could bolster its case with the public.”
In each of its requests, The Star asked the university to cite the specific portion of the Alabama Open Records Act that applies to its denial. Just as in their previous responses, JSU officials again said a limited pool of test subjects combined with a later revelation of any suspensions for violations of team rules would lead to players possibly being identified.
The JSU drug-testing policy states any drug-test suspension should be classified as a violation of team policy.
The school also questioned whether similar requests have been made to Alabama and Auburn or whether other schools within its own Ohio Valley Conference have ever been subjected to such a request. None of those considerations is included in the state’s open records law.
The school’s sports teams have suspended players for violations of team rules not related to the drug-testing policy. Two players in the school’s highest-profile sports — football and basketball — were suspended indefinitely from their teams this academic year for rules violations later reported to be unrelated to drug testing.
There are behavioral and education components to the JSU drug-testing policy, but suspensions range in length depending on occurrences to outright dismissals.
It’s not the only time JSU has denied a request from The Star for athletics department records. In November, it declined to provide a copy of its bid to serve as a host in the NCAA Division I playoffs if the team qualified. The newspaper is still waiting for access to records and communications related to the football team’s 2009 postseason ban that resulted from the team’s poor academic progress rate scores.
The Star also made a request for access to reports of any secondary NCAA violations over the last 18 months. Koegel said he believed the school could honor that request. JSU has provided The Star that information in the past.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.