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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Wednesday Cardinal Couple -- The saga of Leticia Romero


- Romero, Romero...wherefore art thou going?

The journey of ex-Kansas State, freshman guard Leticia Romero is an interesting study in the wacky world of college student-athletes and transfers.

Consider this:

One day, "Leti" is sitting in the year-round beautiful climate of the Canary Islands. Several days later, she's braving a late Feburary midwestern snow-storm to meet with the coaches, staff and players of K-State....and then finding out their arrival back to Manhattan, Kansas has been delayed by the very storm she braved to get there.

Leticia Romero gets the top billing in this topsy-turvy story. After all, she is the player all the fuss is about. Other characters would include Deb Patterson, K-State head women's basketball coach for the Wildcats who got canned at the end of the 2013-14 season. Deb coached the program for 18 years...but a 11-19 record and 5-13 conference mark last year had Kansas State athletic director John Currie convinced that a change had to occur. Out went Deb and her staff. 

John Currie will play the role of the villian here.

Add Xavi Lopez, former collegiate and Spanish professional player who stepped in when the Romero family asked for guidance in helping Leticia get a college scholarship. It turned out well for Xavi, too...who got a graduate assistant job out of the deal. 

After the firing of Patterson and hiring of Jeff Mittie and a new staff...Leticia tried to adapt to the change in coaching. After a stellar season where the 5'8" guard led K-State in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals...she now found herself without the four people who helped her through that freshman season. Patterson, Lopez and assistant coaches Kamie Etheridge and Shalee Lehning.

Lehning was offered a chance to stay on by Mittie. She declined. Lopez felt his talks with Mittie didn't go so well so he left as well. Etheridge accepted the head coaching job at Northern Colorado a few weeks later. Guess who she hired as assistants? Deb Patterson and Shalee Lehning.

Leticia Romero decided to transfer. AD John Currie refused to grant her release.

Without the release, Romero could still leave but would not be eligible to get scholarship consideration at the new school she chose while she had to sit out the mandatory year. She couldn't swing the finances of a year at college alone. She was in a quandary. She considered legal action.

In America less than a year and orphan in the storm.

Then social media kicked in. Jay Bilas began tweeting about the injustice. Joshua Kinder of the Manhattan Mercury newspaper wrote:

"Perception is everything. And right now, K-State looks a
lot like a bully."

Longtime youth coach and national girls' basketball evaluator Mike Flynn expressed that he thought the decision on Romero was "infuriating" and that he intended to make sure recruits nationwide knew about it.

Currie backed off. The release was granted.

Why is this news? Guess who was spotted on the UofL Campus Monday?

Not Currie. Not Elvis. Not Deb Patterson.

Leticia Romero.

All told, there are probably 300 schools who would love to have a visit from the talented freshman. Then, there is this...yesterday from Jen Smith of The Lexington Herald-Leader:

Jen Smith@jenheraldleader

"Hearing from multiple sources that Kentucky is strongly in the mix for transfer Leticia Romero, who led Kansas State in scoring last season."
A very reliable source close to the UofL WBB program tells us:
"We shall see".
Here's a little more fuel for this Kansas brushfire:

....Kansas State has blocked former women’s basketball player Leticia Romero from receiving immediate financial aid from 94 schools in 13 conferences, including Wichita State. Her attorney said K-State has granted Romero permission to contact two schools not on her initial list. He said it also briefly granted Middle Tennessee State, one of the teams on her list, permission to speak with Romero. But K-State retracted the offer within one hour, claiming a clerical error had been made....
Do you really want to play sports at a school
that has a mascot that looks like this?
Stay tuned. We have a feeling this one could get even better than it is already.

Here's the sad thing. A girl comes to America to play basketball. Her four main mentors are all now gone from the school she played at. The athletic director refused a release at first but bows to social media and outrage. K-State initially blocks her chance to sit a year under scholarship before the negative publicity became the Wildcats new guidepost.

What's even more ironic is that K-State president Kirk Schulz is on the committee that is attempting to make some wholesale changes to NCAA governance of college sports.

Hey, Kirk...grab a bucket and clean up your own backyard before trying to change the world.


Why doesn't John Currie like Spanish girls?  
A heroine, a villian, a do-gooder and a couple of mentors. It has the makings of a great Hollywood script...A good witch, bad witch and Dorothy. Currie and Schulz mime Abbott and Costello.

And now...multiple suitors. Or not. Depends on what day it is, I suppose or whether the skies are cloudy or clear.

Let's just hope and pray the NCAA doesn't get involved. They'll have her playing lacrosse at Bucknell in 2016.

Two people with the last name of Romero cross my mind.
The first is the late actor Cesar Romero...who was "The Joker" in the Batman television series of the late sixties.

He would have appreciated the ironic humor involved in this episode.

The other is Randy Romero, a Hall-Of-Fame thoroughbred jockey who overcame humble beginnings and career hardships to become one of the best riders of the 1980's.

Randy's ending is the ending we're looking for in Leticia's story.

Give "the Ville" due consideration, Leti. It just might be fun here at Louisville
becoming a sophomore with Myisha, Sid, Mariya, Arica and Ariana. The mad scientist Jeff Walz has a way of developing 5'8" guards who can score and pass into marquee attractions. And, there's nothing like that magic moment when the KFC YUM! Center lights go out, the music and montage takes over the scoreboard and the arena and Sean Moth booms:

"Let's meet your UofL Cards !!"

And 10,000 people roar in approval.


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