Denver high school coach collected fees for players’ college recruiting exposure

DENVER -- The deal pitched by Denver South High School baseball coach Paul Grubesic to some families of his players was relatively simple: For a fee, a company called Athletes for College would help the high school players get noticed by college coaches.

Such attention, Grabesic wrote in his sales presentation, was a “can’t lose offer ... if you are serious about getting your athletes to the next level.”

But an extensive FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation discovered Grubesic wasn’t fully transparent about his motivations to help student-athletes locally and across the country.

It turns out Grubesic was acting as the Rebels coach and as a commission-based “recruiting specialist” for Athletes for College. He got a referral fee in return for every student-athlete he signed up.

AFC is mainly a website that offers to post stats, highlight reels and other promotional materials for high school athletes in exchange for $1,395.

Misty McNett / Oscar Chavez

Misty McNett and Oscar Chavez’s son started for the South baseball team under Grubesic in his junior and senior years.

They had never heard of AFC until Grubesic approached the family in early 2016.

“The pitch was that he had this amazing program. He'd already been successful with a couple of other kids,” McNett said.

“He guaranteed $15,000 a year in scholarship for (my son) to play baseball, which was huge for us. We need all the help that we can get.”

“(Grubesic) almost pitched it to us like we almost couldn't afford not to do it," Chavez said. "It relieved us of some stress.”

The family provided a string of emails, text messages, contracts and instructions sent to them and another baseball team member’s family who asked to not be identified from Grubesic.

In one 2016 email, the coach touted his personal successes with college recruiting exposure websites. In another, he offered a guarantee in several variations.

“I send this to both families because this guarantee given to me by Athletes for College CEO Greg Eidschun is a 'can't lose' offer.  I encourage you to act on this if your are serious about getting your athletes to the next level," according to the email.

The email text continues.

"Athletes for College is guaranteeing at least a $15k per year scholarship or your fee of $1395 will be returned for 2017 graduates or younger.  Please remember, this opportunity is only offered to athletes that I feel can....

  1. Be placed
  2. Have character and attitude that we feel are essential to succeed both on the field and in the classroom
  3. Most importantly have a skill set to compete in college

Let me know your thoughts on this incredible offer and guarantee

If Grubesic mentioned he was getting paid by AFC, neither McNett or Chavez remember it.

They wrote a check to Athletes for College after the coach reportedly told them “I’ve already got coaches looking at your kids. We have to get this going."

McNett came with her complaint about AFC and Grubesic a year late, the truth was, until September, she had hope her son would be offered a college baseball scholarship.

When no offers came, and he headed off to college, hoping to walk on a team, McNett and Chavez remembered that “guarantee.”

They wrote Grubesic and AFC for a refund of their $1,395.

When AFC failed to respond, and Grubesic responded by telling them to contact AFC, that’s when red flags started going off.

"It was push. Push. Push," McNett said, adding it felt like a sales pitch.

"At the time, we felt that he really genuinely cared and really wanted see our kids get all these offers he was telling us he could help get," McNett said.

“The thing that frustrated me the most, of the situation, is that because we trusted him. We didn’t do the research we probably should have done before to maybe raise some red flags, but we truly trusted him and that’s where we feel like we were really taken advantage of because we thought he had the best interests of our son in mind and really we just feel like he did it for his own personal gain.”

Multiple AFC recruiters said AFC pays between $300 and $400 as a finder's fee for every athlete they signed up.

And according to records posted on AFC’s website before it recently went offline, Grubesic represented at least 14 high-schoolers across the country in baseball, track, basketball, football and soccer in 2015 and 2016.

In addition, records provided show Grubesic acted on behalf of AFC in recruiting at least three players on his own team.

"It’s been exonerated by not only (by the Colorado High School Athletic Association), but also our staff," Grubesic said. "What I did was 100 percent what AFC asked me to do and if you want any further comments, I’d contact AFC.

When asked if he was taking money from parents whose kid is on a team, Grubesic said, "Well that didn’t happen. Didn’t happen. So that didn’t happen. There was no money given to Paul Grubesic. It was Athletes For College."

When told AFC pays him, Grubesic said, "Um, At the time they did, but it had nothing in regards to what we were doing, so ..."

Grubesic was asked if families didn't cooperate or pay the money if it might affect kids' playing time.

"That’s 100 percent, 100 percent not correct," Grubesic said. "That’s not what we are about. If someone feels that way I can’t tell somebody how to feel, but that is 100 percent incorrect. I stand by that. That’s not true.

"I appreciate where you’re coming from, but I will stand by 100 percent that I did nothing in regards to effect anybody in the way you’re coming at me with it, so that’s where I’m at and the last thing I’m going to say about it.

Despite what Grubesic said, CHSAA didn’t “exonerate” him; instead, it chastised him.

CHSAA assistant commissioner Burt Borgmann said he emailed Denver South athletic director Adam Kelsey earlier this year and warned Denver Public Schools that Grubesic accepting money from a college recruiting-site company appeared to be a major conflict of interest.

Borgmann said he was assured Denver South had given Grubesic a directive to quit AFC recruiting or quit coaching the baseball team and that Grubesic had chosen to stop recruiting.

Borgmann declined an interview request.

Denver Public Schools has not commented on the investigation or addressed what it knew about Grubesic’s recruiting for AFC or when it knew about it.

In a Colorado Open Records request, DPS said it had 192 records, but the majority of them have not yet been released as staff continues redactions.

Late Thursday, DPS released a statement.

At a spring 2016 meeting with baseball coach Paul Grubesic and a parent, South High School Athletic Director Adam Kelsey was made aware that Mr. Grubesic had a second job working with the Athletes for College recruiting service. This was potentially a conflict of interest due to its involvement with promoting athletic scholarships for South students in return for a fee. After that meeting, Kelsey informed Grubesic that his association with Athletes for College conflicted with his obligations as head baseball coach and gave Grubesic a choice, end his relationship with Athletes for College or end his relationship with South. Mr. Grubesic chose to end his relationship with Athletes for College.

Athletes for College's website went blank last week. Calls and emails to the company went unanswered.

According to an email sent to McNett from Grubesic, AFC was “run by a former first round choice of the Cincinnati Reds, Greg Eidschun. He also has scouting credentials with the Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies.”

Eidschun is the athletic director and baseball coach for Piedmont International University in North Carolina. His resume states he “served as president of Athletes for College.”

*Update: Piedmont College in Georgia tells FOX31 Eidschun is not an employee.

His status with AFC remains unclear, however. Eidschun did not respond to attempt to get more information.

According to the Better Business Bureau, AFC is a corporation registered in California, but the California Secretary of State's Office said AFC doesn't appear to have any active licenses to do business.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office issued a statement in regards to Athletes for College.

“In regards to your question about Athletes for College, in general our office does not provide details about, or confirmation of, consumer complaints. Doing so could potentially hinder investigative efforts, or may unduly harm a business when a complaint is found inaccurate or not actionable. We take all complaints seriously, and when an investigation determines that a company has violated consumer protection laws, we take appropriate action. If a case against a company or individual is filed in court by our office, that information will be publicly available.”