HIGHLAND — The future of the Highland Scotties women’s basketball team remains uncertain after carefully controlled discussions over the course of four hours on Wednesday produced no official action.
The Highland Community College Board of Trustees assembled at the David Reist Administration Building of the HCC main campus in Highland. Board Chairman Tom Smith requested a motion to enter into closed-door executive session, which carried on a 6-0 vote. Behind closed doors, the board proceeded to hear from each member of the basketball coaching staff, beginning with Second Assistant Coach Jered Ross, continuing with First Assistant Coach Brad Zinn, and concluding with Head Coach William “BJ” Smith.
Each coach spoke with the board for an extended period, one at a time. None of the coaches spoke with support from any assistants, colleagues or representatives, and HCC human resources manager Eileen Gronniger, who prepares the board’s official minutes for the public record, also didn’t attend. However, Smith arrived and departed with a large tote, apparently containing documents. He made no statement outside the meeting room.
The coaches are believed to be on indefinite paid leave following the recent manifestation of certain complaints to the National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association (NJCAA), which governs all sports operations for junior colleges like Highland. Assistant Coach Jon Oler of the Scotties men’s basketball team is steering the women’s basketball program in place of Smith.
College President Deborah Fox declined to comment in any respect after the board finished its business, and wouldn’t say whether or not the coaches remained on leave as of Wednesday night.
The nature of the complaints made to the NJCAA haven’t been specified in any public manner, Gronniger said on Wednesday. Reached via phone, the NJCAA said it never discusses the nature, progress or findings of complaints made to it involving a member school.
It is up to the schools to decide what they wish to say about such matters, a spokesman said. The board voted to adjourn for the night after closed-door discussions ended, more than an hour after Smith left.
While there as yet remains no reason to believe the NJCAA complaints pertain to Smith’s past, in 2014 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri based in St. Louis, Missouri, sentenced Smith to three years of probation for his involvement in a complex auto theft conspiracy. The court found Smith had been one of 21 people involved in a scheme to steal luxury motor vehicles, and foment other forms of criminal conduct related to the autos, according to Hiawatha World archives. According to CBS 12 KFVS-TV of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the criminal activities affected at least 100 different vehicles across four states.
Smith had served for four seasons as head coach of the Southeast Missouri Redhawks women’s basketball team at that institution in Cape Girardeau, before he resigned for personal reasons in December 2006, according to KFVS-TV. During his tenure, Smith had achieved at that time a better win-loss record than any other women’s hoops coach in the NCAA Division I Ohio Valley Conference, according to Southeast Missouri State; the Redhawks achieved their only berth to the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament in 2007.