October 18, 2009 12:20:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
FULTON -- The East Mississippi Community College football team has nothing to hide concerning eligibility issues surrounding punt returner and backup wide receiver British Footman.
As far as the Lions are concerned, questions about Footman never were an issue.
"Not for us," EMCC coach Buddy Stephens said. "We understood the rules, and if there ever was a question, I promise you we would never risk a season to play one kid."
Footman played Saturday for the Lions in a 28-6 victory against Itawamba C.C.
EMCC Athletic Director Mickey Stokes said his football program "covered all of its bases" before offering Footman a scholarship.
"We consider it closed and we thought it was closed before this," Stokes said. "We didn''t have any kind of concern about it until it was brought up just recently, but we''re fine."
Stokes said EMCC coaches came to him before signing Footman to make sure it was something they wanted to pursue. Footman attended Northeast Mississippi Community College in 2008 as a non-high school graduate, but withdrew during the semester and went back to high school.
After graduating in May 2009, Footman was free to sign with a junior college, and he did with the Lions.
"Once you''ve graduated, it makes you eligible immediately," Stokes said. "Any course work you take (at a previous junior college) is nullified and doesn''t count against you eligibility wise. When we talked to the national office, that''s what they explained to us before we even signed him."
Nothing about Footman''s academic status made him ineligible. It also didn''t matter that he was a recruit from Tallahassee, Fla.
Stokes said EMCC would never do anything without first consulting with National Junior College Athletic Association.
"On anything there''s a question about, we always ask the national office or regional director or the state or all of them," Stokes said.
Stokes said there was a similar situation that happened last year with a different student-athlete who didn''t have a high school degree. The student enrolled, passed his GED in the summer, and was well-within eligibility range.