JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of Edward Waters College football players turned to the I-TEAM after receiving eviction notices at their off-campus apartment complex. Three EWC athletes told us that during the recruiting process, a member of the coaching staff promised them off-campus housing at a discounted rate, but the landlords said that agreement never existed.
The I-TEAM knows of at least seven EWC football players currently being threatened with eviction by The District on Kernan, an apartment complex on Kernan Boulevard that bills itself as “student friendly.”
Three of them and a football assistant allege that associate head coach Antoine Manning promised players off-campus housing with more than 50-percent off the monthly rent. The apartment complex however tells us, a discounted housing agreement with football players was never made. Now the players want the coach held responsible.
“These kids get evicted out of their apartment, where are they going to go?” Edward Waters football volunteer La’shaun Sams wondered aloud.
Sams fears these three collegiate athletes might be homeless for the holidays. He says Isaiah Johnson, Laquavious Works and Carlos Rogers aren’t from Jacksonville and have no extended family locally to lean on. “If we are all about the students, if that’s the cliché about the campus, why are they in this type of situation?" Sams questioned.
“With all of this happening, my grades are starting to drop,” EWC football player Carlos Rogers told the I-TEAM.
Rogers and his teammates said Manning promised them off-campus housing at a discounted rate at The District on Kernan. They say the average monthly rent is approximately $614 to $630 but claim Manning told them they’d only have to pay between $100 and $250 a month.
"He talked to me in the spring and he told me if I came and played for him, I get another chance to play, I'd be living off campus. So, when he told me that, I’d be living off campus, he told me the rent would be $100 a month and that was it," said Works.
“And we tell the coaches, and he said, ‘Yeah don’t worry about the $614, it’ll be a discounted rate,'” Johnson recalled.
The students said they never had anything in writing from Manning regarding the discounted rent. What they do have in writing is their lease with the apartment complex.
We obtained Isaiah Johnson’s leasing agreement with The District on Kernan, which states that his rent is $614 a month. Johnson and other students signed similar agreements -- which are legally binding -- but feel they were misled by EWC’s associate head football coach in order for them to choose EWC’s football program.
EWC’s Dr. DeShanna Brown responded to the I-TEAM’s emailed questions with the following answers:
“EWC has confirmed via its athletics leadership and football staff that no such promises as suggested were ever made to any of its student-athletes in this regard.
"Edward Waters College maintains NO formal or informal agreements with any off-campus housing entities. Further, no agreements between students and off campus housing providers are maintained, endorsed or managed by EWC.
“EWC does not operate, oversee, or manage the living arrangements or related business affairs of students who themselves elect to contract with third-party off campus housing providers to meet their own residential needs. However, the College has been and continues to provide on-campus housing options for all students to include student-athletes.
“Accordingly, any student(s) interested in living in one of the College’s on-campus student residence facilities is encouraged to visit www.ewc.edu or make contact with Mr. Mandrake Miller, Vice President for Student Success & Engagement by email or phone at firstname.lastname@example.org or (904) 470-8214 for further information and specific directions towards making on-campus housing arrangements for the upcoming Spring 2020 semester.”
The players told us, however, that this simply isn’t what they were told. They feel like they were deceived.
“This is the first year that they ever done it. This coach, Antoine Manning, came in from Texas. This was the deal that he struck, this is the deal that he bragged to myself and the other coaches about,” said Sams.
"I can barely study at night, I’m staying up to like three, four in the morning trying to figure out where I’m going to go,” said Works.
The I-TEAM asked EWC officials -- if the football coach didn’t promise off-campus housing at a discounted rate as the athletes stated -- why did at least seven football players receive notices regarding their eviction as early as last week?
We’re told college officials are standing by what Coach Manning told them -- that he never made that promise.
We also checked with The District on Kernan to see if anyone could tell us about any agreements that may have been made, and we're told the only thing that resembles discounted rates for students, outside of personal financial aid agreements, is discounted rates for the first and second months -- only as a move-in incentive.
Meanwhile, the football players could be forced to leave The District on Kernan any day now. We’re told as soon as a judge signs the writ of possession, it then goes to the Sheriff’s Office where officers ultimately serve the tenant their final notice. The student athletes will then have to leave or be forced to leave.