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Student+athletes+meet+with+De+Anza+College+President+Lloyd+Holmes+and+Athletic+Director+Ron+Hannon+at+the+Media+and+Learning+Center+in+room+110+on+Wednesday%2C+Jan.+10.
Leila Salam
Student athletes meet with De Anza College President Lloyd Holmes and Athletic Director Ron Hannon at the Media and Learning Center in room 110 on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correctly identify Riley Nguyen with their preferred set of pronouns.

Track and field athletes, coaches and alumni confronted De Anza College’s administrators with their grievances about the athletic department’s handling of their 2023 season overall, as well as their lack of support during various pending legal investigations, at the Media and Learning Center in room 110, on Wednesday, Jan. 10.

Foothill-De Anza Chancellor Lee Lambert sits in the crowd of track and field athletes. Lambert only speaks once during the meeting. (Ann Penalosa)

The team mainly aimed to speak to College President Lloyd Holmes, Athletic Dean Eric Mendoza and Athletic Director Ron Hannon, while Chancellor Lee Lambert was invited as an observer. Mendoza and Lambert did not speak throughout the meeting.

Several of the team’s older concerns — raised in their earlier meeting with Chancellor Lambert on Sept. 27, 2023 — as well as new grievances were not answered during this meeting, as President Holmes said he would follow up with individual students afterwards.

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Students on De Anza’s track and field team settle into their seats as President Holmes opens the meeting. (Ann Penalosa)

One of the complaints was regarding preferential treatment between different teams, specifically between football and track and field. In an interview outside of the meeting, Head Track Coach and Assistant Athletics Director Nick Mattis said the track and field team was supposed to receive new equipment, which was ordered but then either lost or returned without a refund — high jump pits, pole vault pits and nets for hammer throwing, all totalling around $60,000.
Mattis said that sports administration told him when he came back that there was no funding for the new equipment. However, the football team recently received at least seven new blocking sleds which cost over $2,000 a piece, with more new equipment inside a shed which La Voz was not able to access.
Another complaint was alleged unprofessional favoritism within the teams by the athletic trainer.

Ningning O’Brien, 19, a sports medic and thrower on the track team, opens up about her discomfort with her athletic trainer. (Ann Penalosa)

Additionally, two female athletes came forward saying that members of the football team had sexually assaulted them in fall quarter, one during a football game, and she said that the Title IX (Title IX prohibits sex-based discrimination in education) lawyer in charge of that case dismissed it despite that player confessing to assaulting her. The other said she never heard back from her Title IX lawyer. The athletes do not know why their cases were not addressed.
Robert LaVigne, 20, a communications major, the former Student Athlete Advisory Council President and an athlete for both football and track and field, said that he is close friends with the student Mattis had a heated argument with, resulting in an investigation and him being placed on paid administrative leave in the middle of the spring 2023 season.
“Coach Mattis was just trying to teach. This (player) is somebody who’s like a brother to me,” LaVigne said. “What he did and how he went about it was not the way he should have. He didn’t go to coach Mattis himself and say, ‘I don’t want to be on the team;’ he simply said to himself, ‘I’m not going to show up any more and that’s what it’s gonna be.’ You have to understand that for a track coach, as somebody who puts in countless sleepless hours? That will irk your soul, somebody who does not care about something that you care so passionately about.”
LaVigne said the argument between the student and Mattis got blown out of proportion “to make it seem like Mattis was a racist, a bigot, and picking on one of the only Black (athletes) on the team. As someone who is Black myself, Coach Mattis is not that.”
LaVigne said Mattis apologized to him the next day and told him that “(…) ‘there was no malicious intent, I was just doing it because that is truly what I care about.’ I understand and I have no hard feelings towards Mattis.”

Assistant Coach Jerry Duong said the last minute notice about the Coast Conference Championship meet’s new location negatively impacted athletes’ ability to compete and even some of their grades.
“A lot of our athletes schedule classes around conference; they were not allowed to change things when it was so last minute because they found out the day before conference, even though the (athletic department) made the actual decision four days after Mattis was put on leave,” Duong said. “There was no communication from (administration) and all the athletes had already talked to professors beforehand saying, ‘Hey, I have (a meet) this day, I have to leave during this time.’”
Assistant track and field Coach Alyx Tripp said she was frustrated at the administration’s lack of communication with students, both when it came down to rescheduling Coast Conference Championships as well as transfer and scholarship prospects.

Assistant Coach Alyx Tripp confronts Athletic Director Ron Hannon about one of his statements. (Ann Penalosa)

“I understand what you (Hannon) are saying about the situation,” Tripp said, “But what about our athletes that need communications with those four-year colleges that they had been talking to for months.”
Mattis was in charge of helping athletes get scholarships as well as arranging recruitment at four-year universities. Hannon said that the reason that the administration did not allow communication between Mattis and the athletes or the assistant coaches was to protect the integrity of the investigation.

Athletic Director Ron Hannon points at an audience member as he speaks. (Ann Penalosa)

“When you have a personnel matter, we’re limited in the amount of information we can provide,” Hannon said. “We couldn’t speak to the details of what happened in (Mattis’s case) because, as an employee, that person has rights, and any discussion about the details of that situation potentially violates his rights.”
Mattis said that even though he is the person who is supposed to be protected in this investigation, he still does not know what he was accused of in the investigation itself.
“So, I waive them. These are my rights, I would like to know what I was accused of,” Mattis said. “The only person that (witnessed the incident) was Eric, besides these track people. What did I do?”
Holmes responded by saying, “I don’t know.”
Mattis also said that “It’s been written that I confessed to something that I haven’t confessed (to). When it says I attacked a student, that I threatened violence on him? I never confessed to that, so I’m curious about what I did. We all want to know.”

Track and Field Head Coach Nick Mattis asks President Holmes to tell him what he is accused of, saying he still does not know. (Ann Penalosa)

Holmes said he was “certainly not here to discuss a personnel issue, and so I’m just not going to do that.”
So far, no new details have come out about Assistant Coach Dylan Duvio’s firing either.
LaVigne raised a separate concern about Head Football Coach Joe D’Agostino, a white man who used the n-word while speaking to his team. LaVigne said he felt as though the athletic department “brushed it off like it was nothing;” he did later say it was briefly addressed, but not in a way that was “meaningful to the team.”
“When he said that, instantly you could feel the tension in the room. It was like as soon as that happened, almost everybody on the football team thought to themselves, ‘this is no longer my coach,’” LaVigne said.

Robert LaVigne, 20, a communications major, former SAAC President and student athlete, calls in over Zoom to tell President Holmes about the situation with football Head Coach Joe D’Agostino. (Ann Penalosa)

LaVigne said many players were scared to speak up about the situation because of how it would impact their future transfer and recruitment prospects.
“We, the players, felt like it was extremely disrespectful,” LaVigne said. “But as a football team with that as your head coach, the power dynamic makes it very hard to bring that up because your future relies solely on that person. Trying to get that person in trouble is almost like saying, ‘I don’t care about my future.’”
Tripp said she sees a double standard between the way Mattis’ case was dealt with, compared to D’Agostino’s.
“So a coach can call a team a horrible, derogatory slur and nothing happens, but another coach yells — no, raises his voice — that everyone on the team saw, and he’s put on administrative leave?” Tripp asked.
Tripp said that administration also punished track and field athletes who tried to speak out about their coach being gone by censoring them at the athletic awards ceremony as well as objecting to their protest of taping over the De Anza logo on their uniforms and threatening to prevent them from competing at the NorCal meet.
While CCCAA Bylaw 4.2.13.A states that track and field athletes must identify their college on their uniform tops in an approved manner during the competition, no bylaws bar the athletes from taping over their uniforms at the podium or outside of competition.
As La Voz previously reported, the athletes wore their uniforms in compliance during the competition and taped over their logos before receiving medals.
“I know that (administrators) were aware of everything that’s been going on and continues to go on, so I want to put that out there as well,” Tripp said. “They know (students) were censored. They know that they threatened our athletes at meets and after meets.”
Tripp also said that Mendoza lied about his intentions with removing the athletic awards ceremony live stream from the De Anza athletics department website, in which the showrunners muted students who tried to discuss Coach Mattis.
As of Jan. 14, the athletic awards ceremony live stream remains unavailable on the athletics website and has been since July 1, 2023, despite Mendoza’s earlier statements about how it was only taken down for the purpose of editing.

President Lloyd Holmes responds to a statement from someone on the track team. (Ann Penalosa)

“I have said to the athletic administration that those comments never should have been silenced,” Holmes said. “I think the intent was to be certain that we did not put personnel issues out publicly. But it should never have happened.”
“A key word that you brought up was intent,” track athlete Angel Arciniega said. “A lot of things can be done with a good intent. Ultimately, we’re looking for good results. And good intent will not always have a good result.”
Arciniega asked Holmes and Hannon why he said the track team hasn’t heard anything since their meeting with Chancellor Lambert, to which Holmes responded that while “I will say that there should have been some acknowledgment on my part, I was following the advice of legal counsel.”
Arciniega said that even with this acknowledgment, he felt that good results haven’t come out of that lack of transparency and asked Holmes what he could do to “make sure this will not go silent.”
“What are you willing to do to make this better?” Arciniega said. “Not just better for me or Coach Mattis, but for everyone (on this team).”
Holmes did not answer this question, but instead offered the track team three questions of his own: “What do we want that we’re getting? What do we want that we’re not getting? And, what are we getting that we don’t want?”
The conversation did not return to Arciniega’s question afterwards.

Riley Nguyen, an athlete on the track and field team, asks President Holmes about what administration’s limits were when they placed Coach Mattis on leave. (Ann Penalosa)

As the meeting neared its end, Riley Nguyen, a track athlete, said a lot of their questions remained unanswered.
“About the investigation into what happened between coach Mattis and the athlete, a lot of us are absolutely wondering why none of us were talked to about your investigation,” Nguyen said. “Is it still going on? No one knows what’s happening. What were you able to do? What were you not able to do? We feel there was a lot you could have done and should have done, but didn’t.”
Holmes responded that while everything happened under people that are no longer in administrative positions, “as President, I do have to take responsibility for the administration and in the communication that we did give or did not hear.”
Holmes then asked the track team, “How do we move forward? I know that we certainly can get stuck in what happened in the past, but a part of my job is to help us figure out how to not be stuck.”

Maya Lew, a recent De Anza graduate that used to be on the track and field team, explains her situation and frustration to President Holmes. (Ann Penalosa)

Maya Lew, a De Anza alumni, said she has had to take an unplanned gap year due to her scholarships falling through as Mattis could not help coordinate them, and a shoulder injury due to Duvio, her throwing coach, being absent after he was fired. Duvio said he still does not know why he was fired. She said she was disappointed at President Holmes’ lack of action to protect track and field athletes when they needed help during the spring 2023 season.

“I appreciate that you’re here now, but it’s very frustrating that you’re just now taking notes when you should have already had responses for the countless emails we sent during the season, asking for help.” Lew said. “We were preaching the urgency that we needed to have our coach back, as well as that we saw what happened, so why weren’t our statements taken into consideration either? It’s very frustrating that we’re just now hearing about how you ‘want to take action’ when for so long, we sent you countless emails and we asked for your help then.”
Duong said the meeting went about how the athletes expected it to.
“Judging from all the athletes, they were all frustrated still,” Duong said. “So I think (the meeting) was mainly to get the Chancellor’s notice, like, ‘Hey, what are you going to do about this now?’” Duong said. “Because obviously, (athletic administration) hasn’t done anything, President Holmes hasn’t done anything. So we’re kind of waiting to see what the Chancellor is willing to do.”

 

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About the Contributors
Leila Salam
Leila Salam, Copy Editor
Leila is a second year political science major who loves writing, food and being outside. She joined La Voz because she is passionate about social justice and student journalism's power to spread truth.
Ann Penalosa
Ann Penalosa, Co-Managing Editor
a.k.a. mtndewkid, gabunomigrl.

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