Veteran Santa Monica College (SMC) head football Coach Robert Taylor has been relieved of his coaching duties amid alleged violations involving the football program and related to the changing of student residency status.

While Taylor is no longer serving as coach, he remains a full-time physical education professor, college spokesman Bruce Smith said. Taylor began working at SMC as a physical education instructor and assistant football coach in 1984 and he took over as the school’s first African American head football coach in 1994.

SMC President Dr. Chui Tsang said in a statement that a comprehensive investigation determined that the college district allegedly committed serious violations of the Constitution and Bylaws of the California Community College Commission on Athletics/California Community College Athletic Association.

The allegations implicate the football program and include violation of recruiting rules and rules prohibiting providing services to student athletes that are not available to all other students, Tsang said. The violations relate specifically to institutional rules regarding the changing of student residency status, he said.

Tuition is currently listed at $26 per unit for in-state students and $216 per unit for those out of state.

“These violations are unacceptable at any institution, and intolerable at Santa Monica College,” the president said. “I, along with our senior administrators, take ownership of the problems identified and intend to continue to show through both our words and actions that Santa Monica College is acting responsibly to address the serious issues that have emerged.”

Tsang added that the college has self-imposed significant sanctions and penalties on the football program, including a three-year probationary period under the supervision of the Southern California Football Association.

Michael Tuitasi, vice president of student affairs, said SMC reported the issue to the football association and Commission on Athletics, which agreed with the sanctions and thanked the administration for monitoring the situation. The college additionally plans to provide monthly reports to the association on its progress.

“It was a very fair and collaborative approach to handling the situation,” Tuitasi said.

Among the imposed sanctions and penalties are that all football game wins from the 2006 through 2008 seasons are vacated, leaving a record of 0-10 for each season. The football program is also suspended from post conference play this upcoming season.

The administration has begun to implement new procedures to avoid a reoccurrence of the problems that led to the sanctions, Tsang said.

During his SMC coaching career, Taylor was credited with leading many football players to four-year programs and helped shape future NFL players such as Isaac Bruce and Steve Smith.

“I know that he’s had a great following here on campus,” Tuitasi said. “He’s passionate about working with the students.”

Smith said of the veteran Corsairs coach, “He’s had a major impact on so many student athletes’ lives.”

Though concerns may arise about the shift of leadership so close to the start of the new season, Tuitasi explained that the administration’s main priority is ensuring that the athletes have the opportunity to continue playing. The athletes have had a chance to talk with counselors about their options, he said.

Asked about the potential impact on the team with the coaching change, SMC Athletic Director Gregg Simmons said only that “anytime you have a new coach there’s going to be some changes.”

Gifford Lindheim has been appointed interim head football coach for the 2009 season. He has previously coached at El Camino College and Venice High School.

While the team will not have a chance to extend beyond the regular season, Smith said the college is “looking forward to a good football season.”

“We’re as committed as ever to our football program,” he said.

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