PHOENIX — Maricopa County Community Colleges eliminated football at the end of the 2018 season. Officials said it was too expensive. After a legal challenge to keep football failed, a group of coaches formed the Hohokam Junior College Athletic League.
Five teams, four from Maricopa County, are playing this fall. Approximately 200 players are students in the Maricopa County Community College system but the community colleges have no relationship with the teams or the league.
"Last week we had a couple of students go into our financial aid office to inquire if they had received their student financial aid because they had to pay fees to play," MCCC Communications Director Matt Hasson said.
The players are required to pay $1,000 per semester in league fees.
On the Conference web site, athletes are advised what they should do to get an extension to pay their fees if they are waiting for federal student aid.
The student request and the information on the HJCAL web site prompted lawyers from the Maricopa County Community Colleges to warn system presidents that student athletes may be committing, unbeknownst to them, financial aid fraud.
According to Federal Financial Aid rules, the money goes to a students educational expenses, which includes, tuition, room and board, books and activity fees related to the school the students attend.
The fees to play in the newly formed league would not be included because it is not affiliated with MCCC. Community College officials alerted the Department of Education.
Hasson said, "Our focus is on the students making sure they're not penalized for future financial aid by these fees so we make sure we work with them and we take care of them."
The executive Director of the Conference Steven Weiss said "we certainly did and do not believe that we are entitled to financial aid money.
We want to make that very clearly expressed." Weiss added, "neither the league, it's coaches or representatives are involved in the financial aid process at any point whatsoever."
He says he is confident any investigation will make that determination. Weiss he is now in contact with the Community College system.