ROANOKE, Va. – Jawaan Griffin and Ramon Morrow-Finley came to Roanoke to pursue their dream of playing football in college. But that dream quickly became a nightmare as their student housing, which instead of a hotel as stated in their recruitment letter, ended up being their coach’s home. A place they say was filled with feces, roaches and filth.
“I didn’t see anything wrong with it at first, because we just went to the living room. But then when I laid my head down, that’s when I saw my first roach,” said Morrow-Finley, after he left the program.
“I wanted to give it a chance, but on the inside, it was terrible,” added his high school teammate Griffin, who also left the team.
That was just the beginning of exposing a program that the players say wasn’t what it seemed
“They shouldn’t do it all. They need to shut that down. That ain’t what was being advertised. It ain’t what he’s saying it is,” said Griffin. The players say Pope Mitchell, the athletic director and head football coach of South Forest Community Christian, misrepresented his program as a Junior College. Something Mitchell said he never did.
“We are a club program that offers athletics. We offer men’s and women’s basketball, we offer football. To play for those club programs you have to be enrolled in Community Christian College. But we ourselves are not an institute for higher learning, no ma’am,” Mitchell said.
Their conference though, the National Post Grad Athletic Association, has them listed on their website as “SF Community Christian College.” Mitchell’s recruitment letter referred to it as a “JUCO,” or Junior College.
“When the coach first did a zoom call, he was saying that this is an online school, but you’ll be playing football. So you’ll play football for like six months, then you’ll go home, go back to your residence and do online classes,” explained Griffin’s father Walter Brown Jr. He started digging into the program after his son’s experience at Mitchell’s house.
In his recruitment letter, Mitchell claimed he had a partnership with Community Christian College, an online school in California.
10 News spoke with CCC’s Athletic Director Tracy Davis, who said he is familiar with Mitchell, but South Forest Community Christian is not affiliated with CCC. Mitchell’s statements, however, suggest that CCC is involved in the funding for his SFCC program.
Pope Mitchell: “Once they have taken classes through CCC, then those funds for that person will be released to us athletically.”
Alyssa Rae: “So CCC gives you funds if the kids enroll?”
Pope Mitchell: “Yes.”
But as we’ve reported, the Vice President of Compliance at CCC sent me this statement: “There is no partnership, athletic or otherwise, with the entity, corporation, or business located Roanoke, Virginia.”
SFCC Bobcats Athletic Twitter initially had a link to CCC’s website. The day after our conversation with Davis, that link was taken down. But when I asked Mitchell when the players will get their $500 deposits back, Mitchell blamed the college.
Alyssa Rae: “Why would you have to wait until the end of the semester to get them their money back?”
Pope Mitchell: “Because that’s when our funds are released. Our budget is determined by semesters.”
Ei’zayah Frost, who is on the team and still lives in Mitchell’s home, said the coach also told him that Community Christian College would return his deposit after the semester. CCC did not support these claims. In a statement to 10 News the college says that Pope Mitchell, “does not and has not ever received money from CCC.”
Ei’zayah Frost: “He told me the same thing he told y’all. We can’t get it back until September. And that’s what the school told us too.”
Alyssa Rae: “What school?”
Ei’zayah Frost: “CCC.”
Alyssa Rae: “They don’t have your money.”
The families said he never said Mitchell was refunding them, in fact, they can’t even get in touch with him.
“I have not spoken to him. He actually blocked everyone so we cannot get in contact with him,” said Griffin’s mother, Alegria Brown.
“I believe he was recruiting out-of-town kids to get that $500, or more, as the months go on,” added Brown Jr.
According to court documents obtained by 10 News, Mitchell was convicted of felony unlawful wounding in 2018 and was incarcerated. In a court filing, he shared with his probation officer that he would pay for his court costs and fines in full on Jan. 16, 2021, when he received $3,000 for his position of Athletic Director and Head Football Coach of SF Community Christian ‘school’.
Alyssa Rae: “Where did you plan to get that $3,000?”
Pope Mitchell: “From the money I would have been paid from my memorandum of understanding for the club program.”
We have yet to find any evidence of an official memorandum. The only money we’ve confirmed he received was through direct PayPal payments to Mitchell from the out-of-state players and their families who put their trust in him.
“My pops keeps telling me, everything is a lesson, everything that happens you got to look at it and learn from it, so from here on out, I don’t trust nothing,” Griffin said.
As they left Roanoke, they had a warning for other college football hopefuls: be careful who you put your confidence in.
Griffin and Morrow-Finley moved back to Kansas City and are pursuing other football opportunities. As for the housing deposit, as of now, it has yet to be returned.
Alyssa Rae and Patrick McKee contributed to this report.