What if they had a basketball team but no one came to play?
That's the dilemma administrators at Ventura College might be faced with after members of the embattled men's program decide today whether to suit up or sit out.
After weeks of meetings, sanctions, accusations and appeals, Ventura players are expected to provide administrators and coaches with an answer that could cripple a program that was once the crown jewel of junior college basketball in California.
The outlook, by most accounts, is bleak. Several players already have said they will not play this season because of the tumultuous turn of events in recent weeks.
Six players were declared ineligible last week by the Western State Conference for allegedly receiving illegal meal subsidies last season.
Ventura, a perennial power and state champion in 1995 and 1996, last month was levied a two-year probation by the WSC for a litany of violations of state rules during the two-year reign of former Coach Virgil Watson. The probation prohibits the Pirates from competing in postseason play.
Meanwhile, first-year Coach Glen Hefferman, who last week moved to Chicago, has all but resigned, leaving the Pirates without a coach with the opener at Kings River nine days away.
Hefferman, who has phoned in sick this week, said he is exploring his legal options.
Hefferman, who left his job as coach at Columbia College in Sonora, has accused Ventura administrators of intentionally failing to inform him the program was being investigated before he was hired in August.
Some players say they are unwilling to waste a year of eligibility in their quest to transfer to a Division I school. Others have expressed anger with administrators, whom they blame for the ordeal.
"Most of the guys are a little bit confused right now," forward Danny Herrera said. "And a little bit hurt."
Freshman guard Kevin Missouri said he is undecided.
"I'm leaning toward playing, but I'm totally confused," he said. "If we play, we're going to be a bunch of guards with a couple of big men."
Guard Ben Tryk said, "I'd be surprised if Ventura even has a team this year."
It is possible Ventura won't.
Indications are are only a handful of players are willing to compete.
Athletic coordinator Dick James said he has received only one inquiry from a student interested in joining the team.
Jeff Theiler, a volunteer assistant, has strolled through campus in search of potential players.
"Administratively, we're ready to go," James said. "[But] if we don't have enough bodies, the president will consider the option of shutting the program down for one year. There has been open discussion about that."
Tryk, among the most vociferous critics of administrators, went as far as to suggest just that in a letter this week to college President Larry Calderon.
Tryk spoke on behalf of eight players last week at Santa Monica College in an unsuccessful appeal to WSC officials.
Tryk and Herrera say they won't play.
"Everybody saw it coming, that the appeal wouldn't go through," Tryk said. "I'm sure that a lot of guys are going to quit. If [Hefferman] doesn't come back, I don't blame him."