A Southern California community college’s head football coach is on administrative leave amid an investigation into accusations he housed players in the team’s locker room at hundreds of dollars in rent and crammed as many as 30 other players into an off-campus apartment.
Pierce College coach Carlos Woods is the target of an athletic department probe into the housing allegations and other potential violations, including allowing ineligible athletes to compete and recruiting outside California.
“Coach Carlos Woods has now been placed on temporary Administrative Leave, effective today, pending the outcome of an investigation into the allegations that were brought to my attention this week,” Pierce College President Alexis Montevirgen said Thursday evening in a brief statement. “We hope to name an acting head coach for the football team within the next few days.”
The fast-moving developments began Wednesday when campus newspaper Los Angeles Pierce College Roundup News broke news of the investigation. The story details disturbing accounts from former and present athletes, many from out of state, who told of living in jail-like conditions in bunk beds and cots at an apartment near the Woodland Hills campus.
Four players were reportedly living in the on-campus locker room, football players and staff told Pierce officials, the newspaper reported.
By Thursday afternoon, community college athletics governing bodies had been notified as Montevirgen sought to assure students that the school was looking into the allegations.
“The health and safety of our students is a primary concern of the College, our Chancellor and the Board of Trustees. Any allegations concerning employee misconduct or issues involving student safety are taken very seriously and will be thoroughly reviewed,” the statement read.
By Thursday evening, Woods was on temporary administrative leave and Pierce (0-0; 1-4) was on the hunt for an interim head coach.
Officials at the California Community College Athletic Association in Sacramento learned of the controversy through the Roundup’s report and have been in communication with Southern California Football Association officials, CCCAA executive director Carlyle Carter told The Bee on Thursday.
“We don’t have any information about it. We found out about it in the story that was released,” Carter said. “(Pierce) is in the initial throes of an investigation. At this point, it would be inappropriate to comment.”
But the association’s bylaws prohibit out-of-state recruiting and securing housing for student-athletes that otherwise are not made available to all students.
One student-athlete recruited from Florida before the 2018 season said he ended up living in his car for a time and ultimately left Pierce. He told the Roundup News that Woods assured him housing would be set up with four to five new and returning athletes in a three-bedroom home, paying $350 a month, plus expenses.
“He promised actual living space, and it ended up being like a camp (or) jail with how many people were living in that house,” Jose Cordova told the Roundup News’ Arielle Zolezzi. “Lines Woods had crossed would be 30 guys in a three-bedroom and almost half of his recruits wouldn’t pay rent and bills wouldn’t be paid.”
Other players interviewed by the Roundup News who were housed in the apartment said they were evicted after Woods repeatedly failed to pay rent, though he allegedly pocketed hundreds of dollars in rent payments from his athletes.
Still others left on their own once landlords started posting eviction notices.
Cordova called the experience “the most stressful time I ever had.”
It’s not the first time Woods’ name has been tied to alleged housing and recruiting violations.
Two years ago, in 2017, while Woods was an assistant at Gavilan College, the Gilroy school slapped the football program with three years’ probation, banned it from postseason play for two years and kicked out 17 players after an investigation into the alleged misdeeds, the Hollister Free Lance reported at the time.
The allegations reported by the Free Lance were strikingly similar to the accusations Woods is facing at Pierce: the 17 Gavilan players, many from out of state, were crowded into a three-bedroom house in Hollister and had entered into a deal with the homeowner for meals and bedding.
In a Thursday interview with The Bee, Northern California Football Conference Commissioner Gary Kollenborn recalled the Gavilan controversy and ensuing investigation.
“There were some issues with coaches arranging housing for (players) and issues related to recruiting. The majority of the players were disqualified,” Kollenborn said.
Kollenborn, a longtime coach on the community college level before moving into the commissioner’s post, said steering student-athletes into housing and financial aid can be challenging but, “You can do it and be in compliance and follow the rules.”
“When a coach tries to do it on his own, when you see a thing like that, you see a coach way over his head,” Kollenborn said.