Here’s my story that’s posting to Kansas.com shortly and will be in Friday’s edition of The Eagle. Weird day — had no idea that Friends football coach Monty Lewis was suspended last month until we spoke on the phone this afternoon … and he’s still pretty raw about it, obviously.
By TONY ADAME
The Wichita Eagle
The Friends University football program forfeited its 24-21 win on Sept. 10 over Saint Mary on Thursday, citing the Falcons’ use of an ineligible player.
Also Thursday, Friends coach Monty Lewis revealed that he’d been suspended by Friends athletic director Joe Zimmerman for the same incident, sitting out the Falcons’ 35-10 loss at Southern Nazarene on Sept. 17.
“The football program played a non-certified, ineligible athlete in the game,” Zimmerman said in a statement. “When we realized what transpired, we immediately reported it to the KCAC and the NAIA. The NAIA determined we must forfeit the game and the athletic department has taken steps internally to remedy this type of situation.
“We will move forward, as there is a lot of season yet to play.”
The forfeit dropped Friends’ record to 1-3 overall and 1-2 in KCAC play.
“I blame myself,” Lewis said. “I’m disappointed the NAIA ruled it a forfeit, because (the player) was attending classes full-time at least two weeks before the season started … but I’m the head of the football program, so stuff like this falls on my shoulders.”
Lewis, who has won three KCAC titles in nine seasons at Friends, said the ineligible player is now eligible and would continue to play in games.
Zimmerman did not address Lewis’ suspension in the statement, but did later.
“I do not go into reasons of why or how when it comes to employee confidentiality,” Zimmerman said. “But yes, it was my decision to suspend (Lewis). I’m not at liberty to say more than that.”
Lewis did not agree with the punishment.
“I don’t believe I should have been suspended, but those things are out of your hands when it becomes an administrator’s decision,” Lewis said. “(Being suspended) just tore my guts out, plain and simple … and frankly, it’s had a pretty stressful effect on my family.
“In 26 years of coaching, with 19 as a head coach, I’ve never had something like this happen … although I understand that in this business, when you’re the head coach, you have to stand up in front of things and take the bullet, so to speak. The suspension really, really hurt, but I’m comforted in knowing that I’ve got a lot of support around me, a lot of people who will stand behind me.”