Anthony Feliciano was supposed to be playing football. It’s fall, after all.
But Feliciano, 21, is at his parents’ Santa Rosa home, taking online classes toward his history degree and wondering what went wrong.
“I do feel like I was penalized,” he said. “All I was trying to do was continue my education and finish my degree a little sooner.”
In simple terms, Feliciano fell afoul of NCAA eligibility requirements, rendering him ineligible for the current football season. But how exactly that happened is far from simple.
In short, Feliciano’s enrollment at four schools in four years triggered the so-called 4-2-4-4 rule, a transfer regulation requiring athletes to sit out a year after too many program moves.
But here is the thing, Feliciano is not a shopper. He’s a student. And a good one. He is a guy who got snagged in rule and was made to pay a pretty steep price.
“He’s getting penalized for going to school,” said Feliciano’s dad, Leon, the award-winning football coach who headed the Tomales High program for years before retiring in 2014. “He’s not taking drugs, he’s not taking payouts.”
It happened like this: Feliciano graduated from Tomales in 2014. In the fall, he headed to Atchison, Kansas, where he redshirted his freshman season at NAIA school Benedictine College.
But tuition went up and his financial aid package didn’t, so he headed back to California and enrolled at Butte College in Oroville. He spent the next two years at the community college playing tight end for the Roadrunners, a team that made it to the NorCal Championship game last season.
But central to this tale is not that Feliciano is a standout athlete. Central to this tale is that Feliciano is a standout student-athlete.
In his freshman year at Benedictine, Feliciano earned a 3.0 grade point average. In two years at Butte, his GPA was 3.8 and he was on the honor roll. He earned his AA degree after the 2016 spring semester, just before his second season with the Roadrunners.
When Feliciano didn’t get a lot of interest from football programs after his sophomore season at Butte, he decided to keep his ears open but to also push on with his degree in history with the hope of someday becoming a teacher and a coach. He applied, and was accepted, at Sonoma State, Chico State and Cal Poly.
He chose Chico, a campus 15 miles down the road from his place in Oroville but a school that hasn’t had a football program since 1996. He took 15 units, including upper division classes toward his degree, and earned a 3.2 GPA. Football was on his mind, but not at the forefront.
“I thought, if a school calls, I’ll go and if not, I’m already getting my degree and I’m on my way,” he said.
And remember, Chico State doesn’t have football. Feliciano is not shopping for programs, he’s working toward his diploma.
But then a call did come. It was from Humboldt State. Turned out the Lumberjacks were short on tight ends. Would Feliciano be interested in coming aboard in the fall as a preferred walk-on?
Feliciano said this call came in late February or early March. In other words, too late for a scholarship and too late for the typical application process. At this late date his transcripts — with grades and classes from all three schools he’d attended — needed to be shepherded through the admissions office by school officials who would help him navigate the late-admit process.