POINCIANA, Fla. (WFLA) — They came to Poinciana with a dream of earning college credit and improving their grades at the brand new St. Sebastian Elite College while improving their best times to earn a shot with a bigger program of football.
But Carteyae Gordon, 20, of Lansing, Michigan, said there were red flags long before the team played its first and only game in September.
“We only had 17 players. We shared helmets. We didn’t have a coach,” recalls Gordon. “We started to get suspicious when, for our first game, we didn’t have referees. Our coaches refereed our game. It was just awful.
Even without a campus, a verification letter accepted in May by the Florida Department of Education says San Sebastian has met state requirements as a religious institution “and is not subject to government oversight. “until May 31, 2022.
Gordon and several other former San Sebastian recruits said coach DeMarcus Lattier had “sold college well” as a program that would help them further their college careers.
“He promised us that he would help us get into different colleges, basically get us out there,” Gordon said. “He would help us improve. “
Daniel Abdul, 21, from St Petersburg, said he started asking questions when there was a shortage of players during the first training session.
“I’m, like, ‘Coach, is that it?'” Abdul said. “He said we would have plenty. He said others were coming, others were coming.
They never came and within days of the first kickoff, the Fighting Foxes football season was over.
Then, according to Abdul, access to classes was frozen for some students who received emails from professors claiming “no one got a paycheck.” Abdul said that at that time he was pressured to pay his school fees.
“I gave him money – $1,000, all hundreds,” Abdul said. “[I gave it to] coach himself.
Lattier did not deny taking Abdul’s money.
“We accept all forms of payment,” Lattier said. “We don’t have financial aid because you have to be accredited.”
According to St. Sebastian’s vice president of academic affairs, Lovella Jones, the accreditation process is underway. Jones would not disclose the number of enrolled students.
Another issue was that what was listed as San Sebastian’s physical address – 445 Marigold Avenue – is the same address as the Poinciana Community Center.
In an email, the center’s operations manager, Eldonia Gonzalez, said San Sebastian “should not use our address.”
“They don’t rent our facilities,” Gonzalez said.
The address has since been removed from San Sebastian’s website.
Gordon filed a complaint with the DOE’s Commission on Independent Education, but in an email, spokesman Brett Tubbs said the commission “lacks jurisdiction” over the college.
“A student should request a private application,” Tubbs said.
Gordon did not say whether he would file a civil lawsuit against San Sebastian.
Lattier stressed that he was “100%” honest with the rookies.
“We have players who weren’t happy and I wish these young men the best,” Lattier said. “It’s not just about football. We want to keep trying to help, keep trying to give opportunities to young men and women who need it.
Lattier and Jones said they believe there will be a real campus and football program in the future, but they didn’t offer a timeline.
“These things take time,” Lattier said.
Gordon and the other players who left the program said they wasted money and time and are now trying to figure out where to go next.
Keewone Parker, 20, of Lansing, Michigan, said he was expecting a call.
“That’s what I have to do,” Parker said. “I feel embarrassed by this. My parents questioned it, but I bit. Now I’m waiting to play elsewhere.