Men’s water polo club faces past team’s debt
By Sara Weber
The 2012-2013 Northern Arizona University (NAU) men’s water polo team has had an arduous time focusing on their season as they try to remedy mistakes made by past players. The 2009-2010 team registered for the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) and allegedly never paid the $1,800 fee, leaving the succeeding teams to deal with the hassle and recurring phone calls requesting payment.
Current club president, Gabe Borden, explained the history behind the struggle to rid the team of the debt incurred in the prior season.
“My roommate and I, who are from the same high school, and one other guy from England decided to start a water polo team because we didn’t have any other ways to connect with water polo players here,” Borden said. “When we contacted the league, our then president got word we were supposed to pay this fee.”
Borden and his team are determined to overcome this debt, one way or another.
“I really understand their side of this, and I want them to have their money, but we can’t give it to them,” Borden said. “I suggested monthly installments because I was convinced we were just going to be stuck with this debt and were going to have to pay it somehow; so I suggested paying $200 a month.”
Campus Recreation Services stands behind the current water polo team, declaring they should not be held responsible for the fee.
“The [decision] we’ve come to is that the students in the university club aren’t liable for the debt because they weren’t here when it happened,” said Erik Jaeke, a Campus Recreation Services Coordinator.
Campus Recreation Services and the team are still attempting to find out who co-signed the contract to join the league with the former club president.
“Here in Campus Rec, nobody ever signed the contract. Our policy here is that we can’t even sign contracts [because] we have to run the contract all the way up the train,” Jaeke said. “This particular contract . . . was never signed by anyone at Campus Rec. That’s why we also feel like, although it’s an unfortunate situation with the water polo club, it’s not a debt we’re responsible for.”
Working together with Student Life and a campus legal aid – who declined to comment on the conflict – Borden and Campus Recreation Services are trying to find a way to solve the issue.
Campus Recreation may be able to assist in the payment though.
“What we’ve told them is that if they’re able to come up with the majority of the [fee], we do have a little bit of money we would be able to help them out with.” Jaeke said. “We’re not sure how much we’d be able to help out, but it would probably be a couple hundred dollars.”
Kristine Koehler, a Student Life coordinator, said that though Student Life cannot help, they also believe this year’s water polo team is not accountable for paying the fee.
“As far as I know, they‘re not legally responsible,” Koehler said. “A couple years ago, when we first found out about it, we tried to help and contact some of the players from the former team to figure out if there was money somewhere; there wasn’t. We tried to investigate, but we don’t have any funds for student organizations at all, so there’s not really a way we can monitor or find the paper trail.”
After consistent attempts to “collect the debt,” Dan Sharadin, commissioner of the CWPA, remains decided that the fee must be paid.
“The institution is required to pay the amount . . . they [NAU] cannot play [in the CWPA league] again until those fees are paid,” Sharadin said.
Although the idea that Borden and his team should not have to pay the $1,800 debt accrued by a previous team seems to be unanimous, all parties involved believe it would be best to somehow pay the league.
“I didn’t want it to end there [with the team refusing to pay] because [even though] our water polo team is not good enough nor committed enough to want to join a league [right now] . . . I’m concerned [because] we have some really good freshmen and sophomores who will eventually take over the team and they’re probably going to want to go into a league . . It’s in the best interest of NAU to have a good relationship between men’s water polo and the league. We literally cannot join the league until we pay this debt off; we’re just tired of it,” Borden said.
Koehler agreed the debt should be alleviated for the sake of future teams.
“I think it would be great if it got paid off, because a team in the future may want to play in the league, but we’re not holding this league responsible for the debt,” Koehler said.
Until the situation is solved, the team will continue to practice and participate in independent tournaments.