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Lon Morris troubles snares local athletes

June 1, 2012 at 1:01 a.m.


News of financial difficulties at one of the oldest two-year colleges in Texas is having an affect on the football dreams of three players in the Crossroads region.

Lon Morris College furloughed all but a dozen staff members late last month as it undergoes financial difficulties. Miles McCall, president of the Jacksonville-based private school, also resigned on May 24.

Five hours away, the parents of Calhoun football players Brandon Griffith and Thaelen Villarreal were unaware of the financial difficulties that had overtaken the school where they announced they would play football there in the fall.

Bay City wide receiver Dennis Martin also signed to play football at Lon Morris.

Lon Morris, which traces its roots to 1854, was one of six schools in Texas that had a low financial responsibility score for the 2009-10 academic year from the Department of Education. Schools that award federal student aid must participate in the test. The results, released in October 2011, are the most recent available.

In May, Bridge Point Consulting Company was brought in to assist the college with its finances. A voice message to the firm's managing partner Thursday was not returned.

Melodie Griffith said she found out about McCall's resignation and other troubles facing the college while watching the news.

She said then notified the Villarreals, who were also unaware.

"This is my son's future they have in their hands," Griffith said. "It would have been nice to receive a phone call to let us know what's going on. They told the professors by email. It's really disturbing they would do something like this."

Villarreal was not too concerned with the tempest swirling around the private college that is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. He said Thursday that his parents have spoken with the Bearcats coaching staff and been assured that classes will resume this fall.

"I put my trust in them, and I guess it's going to be good," Villarreal said.

At a minimum, Villarreal will attend Victoria College before transferring to a four-year school. Griffith has applied to Texas A&M-Kingsville. His family is awaiting an acceptance letter, which they expect to receive soon.

Whether either boy plays football next year will is still up in the air.

Griffith spoke with an official at Lon Morris Wednesday. She asked whether the schould would hold fall classes. The official said "we should." Griffith then asked whether her son's scholarship would be honored. The response: "it should."

Despite the potentially trying circumstances surrounding the next chapter in their lives, both Calhoun players have other options beyond football.

"I try to look at the positives out of everything," Villarreal said. "At least I am going to go to college and further my education. That is the most important thing I am worried about."

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