Connecting Local Football Program to Online College in California
ROANOKE, Va. – Finger pointing and blame play. Our investigation into the fallout from a local football program took another turn.
10 News has been studying the South Forest community’s Christian program for weeks, and it appears this story goes beyond Roanoke, reaching as far as California.
Since our first reports, Pope Mitchell, sporting director and head coach of the SFCC, has resigned.
But after speaking to former players and an assistant coach, many believe the root of the program was much bigger than him.
Where does the funding come from?
When we sat down with Mitchell in July, he was adamant that his team was funded by Community Christian College, an online school in Redlands, California.
“Funding comes from organizations and academics. To be eligible for our program, you must take classes through CCC,” Mitchell said in this interview.
CCC was quick to deny these claims, telling 10 News that they had no affiliation with the Roanoke team.
We spoke with a CCC athletic director, Tracy Davis, who said he and Community Christian College had nothing to do with the SFCC.
“Community Christian College has nothing to do with this and they continue to be involved,” Davis said over the phone.
Davis has a theory as to why they’re involved – because Mitchell is his son.
“You don’t know the story, it’s an attack from there because of my son. And I know it,” Davis said.
But since airing our first stories about the SFCC program’s broken promises, we’ve obtained documents that may suggest CCC’s involvement. The first, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between an assistant coach, CCC president Brian Carroll, and Davis.
10 News inquired about the memorandum of understanding, asking Davis why their names appear if they’re not involved, and he told us this:
Davis: The one you’re talking about with Virginia isn’t real. This is not a contract that I signed or that Brian signed.
Alyssa: So do you think Pope modified it to put Roanoke Virginia in it?
Davis: It is our belief. That’s all I can tell you.
However, this MOU was sent from Davis’ email account to Mitchell in 2020 when the SFCC program had just started. We sent this evidence to CCC, and they responded by saying, “It looks like the documents are all made up.
This was just the beginning of communications between Davis and the Roanoke team.
In 2020, he sent Austin Wilhelm, a former Alleghany High School catcher, an email welcoming him to the Bobcats program — something Davis denies ever doing.
Alyssa: The welcome letter you re-sent to players from your account, welcoming them to the Bobcats.
Davis: I do not send welcome letters, they are not my children.
Alyssa: We have them in your CCC email saying “Welcome to the Bobcats”.
Another connection between the home team and the California college is the $1,500 athletic fee that Wilhelm said CCC added to his bill.
Wilhelm says the college is still calling trying to raise money, despite leaving the team two years ago before even playing a game.
Davis: He is not a CCC player and has nothing to do with CCC.
Alyssa: So why do we have a receipt from a player, a transcript, that CCC took $1,500 for sports fees when he’s not playing for CCC. Why would they do that?
Davis: If you read the memorandum of understanding, it tells them what they will get in a memorandum of understanding.
But remember, CCC and Davis previously said the MOU deal wasn’t real.
Regarding funding, Davis explained in an email to Mitchell sent in 2020 how CCC is paid by players who enroll in college.
“So whatever is booked is what we will be compensated for,” Davis’ email read. “We will not get fees for students who have not completed financial aid.”
On the phone, however, Davis claimed he had no knowledge of it.
Alyssa: If CCC can explain why they charge FAFSA $1500 per player for kids, and don’t say MOU because they said MOU is made up.
Davis: I’m not part of that, that, in particular, I don’t know how it happens.
However, Davis sent Mitchell another email with a student consent form for an athletic program fee form that he told Mitchell his players had to fill out. This fee, again, is listed at $1,500.
We asked CCC about sports fees and they replied, “Any questions regarding the use of funds, please spend some time on our website. We fund both on-campus and off-campus students to play sports.
There was no further explanation as to why this fee was applied to athletes from Virginia who are not recognized by the CCC. Mitchell explained it from the start.
Pope Mitchell: That’s where our funding comes from, is that once they’ve taken courses through CCC, those funds for those people will come back to us athletically.
Alyssa: So CCC gives you funds if the kids sign up?
Pope Mitchell: Yes.
This notion is reiterated yet again by someone affiliated with the CCC through an email from an athletic director on the college campus in Mitchell in 2021. There was a football roster attachment and SFCC players who have not applied for the FAFSA. The email goes on to say, “without this part being completed, the funds cannot be withdrawn.”
We’ve spoken with many players who believe Mitchell had good intentions but the money Davis pledged to their program rarely went to their program. They also said Mitchell paid for much of the cost himself.
Mitchell said all he wants is for players who think they can’t make it to have a chance to try.
No one from Community Christian College or South Forest Community Christian has been charged or charged with criminal misconduct in connection with the SFCC Bobcats program.
Despite numerous documents contradicting the CCC’s position, the college stands by its original statement: It has no connection with the South Forest Christian community.
In response to our findings, Brian Carroll, President of CCC, provided this statement to 10 News:
“This is an unfortunate event, and we appreciate Alyssa Rae of WSLS for bringing this to our attention. We will do everything we can to help. Community Christian College is offering Roanoke students the opportunity to play for our NJCAA Division 1 in California and Michigan or will provide them with a full refund, while allowing them to retain all grades and courses.
Brian Carroll, CCC Chair
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