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ISU football player’s eligibility won’t be reinstated

January 24, 2019 GMT

POCATELLO — The Idaho State University football player who was allegedly mistreated by two of his coaches got an answer to one of his complaints.

It wasn’t the one he had hoped for.

Jayson Miller, a safety on ISU’s football team who filed a formal complaint alleging physical assault, inappropriate text messages and insufficient communication regarding playing time and eligibility, was recently denied an extra year of eligibility by the Big Sky Conference. Miller played the 2018 season under the impression he was a redshirt junior, when in fact he was a senior. He was informed of his correct eligibility leading up to ISU’s season finale against Weber State in November and subsequently learned of the Big Sky’s decision to deny his extra year of eligibility.

Unless Miller files an appeal that is approved by the NCAA, his playing days at ISU are over.

Miller missed all but one game of the 2017 season because of a knee injury, for which he could have been granted a medical hardship waiver and an extra year of eligibility. NCAA bylaws summarize that if a student-athlete plays in less than 30 percent of their team’s scheduled games because of a debilitating injury, they may be eligible to regain a year of eligibility.

But because of insufficient medical documentation provided by ISU, Miller did not get his year back.

Miller told the Journal that the Big Sky’s explanation for its ruling was, “The training room notes included in the request do not suffice as medical documentation.”

Multiple phone calls and emails sent to the Big Sky Conference on Wednesday seeking clarification went unreturned.

In November 2018, Miller filed a formal complaint with ISU that included several allegations against his head coach Rob Phenicie and then-assistant coach Jay Staggs.

Regarding his eligibility, Miller was under the impression that because he missed 10 of 11 games during the 2017 season, he was OK’d for an extra season of playing time.

But necessary paperwork was never filed by ISU on Miller’s behalf, meaning Miller’s 2018 season — his fourth at ISU — was his last.

Miller was informed that he was in fact a senior, not a redshirt junior, leading up to ISU’s season finale against Weber State on Nov. 17. ISU has since taken responsibility for falsely creating “a clear expectation that the student-athlete would have an additional year of eligibility,” and submitted to the Big Sky an application for medical hardship and an extra year of eligibility for Miller.

Miller sent a copy of his medical hardship application to the Journal. It says Miller suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee during the first game of ISU’s 2017 season and documents Miller’s routine treatment sessions in ISU’s athletic training room.

Miller also said that when he initially asked about his medical documentation toward the end of the 2018 season, he was told there was none.

“This is the same paperwork that popped up out of nowhere,” Miller said about the documents sent to the Big Sky Conference in his defense.

ISU spokesperson Stuart Summers said that the delay in submitting Miller’s injury documentation did not factor into the Big Sky denying his extra year of eligibility. Summers added that “the NCAA makes their decisions based on the facts of an injury. Injuries are assessed uniformly regardless of the timing of the submission.”

ISU also said it will do everything in its power to help the student-athlete in question if he decides to appeal the Big Sky’s decision.

However, Miller said he is “leaning toward leaving it as it is.” Miller has also said in the past that he would not play for ISU next season if Phenicie is still the head coach.

“Initially I wanted to appeal it,” Miller said. “But after thinking about the possibilities of what next season could be like with ISU I changed my mind.”

In his formal complaint filed with ISU, Miller alleges that Phenicie twice hammer punched Miller’s shoulder pads during halftime of the team’s game Nov. 10 at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California. The second punch happened after Miller asked Phenicie not to make physical contact with him again, the complaint says.

The following week, when Miller met with Phenicie to address the incident, Miller was informed that he was a senior and would be playing his last game against Weber State.

The complaint also documents text messages sent by Staggs, who oversaw the team’s safeties, to Miller and other members of the team. ISU said it removed Staggs from his coaching position and did not renew his contract for sending the “derogatory text messages with race and gender-based themes.”

Phenicie’s alleged punches are still being investigated by ISU. Phenicie has not been placed on administrative leave during the ongoing investigation. Miller also reported the incident to the Cal Poly University Police Department, which launched an investigation of its own. No update on the police investigation was available as of Wednesday.

After news of ISU’s investigation broke, nearly 50 ISU football players came forward in defense of Staggs and Phenicie, saying Staggs’ text messages were not racist or offensive and Phenicie’s punches weren’t malicious.

Miller played six games, making one start, in 2018. He played a combined 20 games his freshman and sophomore seasons, making eight starts.

Neither Phenicie nor Staggs has publicly responded to Miller’s allegations.