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Kansas community college putting Netflix show behind it

August 25, 2019

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — As Independence Community College begins a new football season this weekend, most things are different.

There’s a new coach, a new athletic director, a new school president — and no cameras filming a new season of Last Chance U, a Netflix show that The Wichita Eagle reports brought the school fame and infamy.

The goal is a total rebuild of the program, which was led by former coach Jason Brown to its best season in decades in 2017 before a downward spiral with a 2-8 season in 2018. And that wasn’t all.

Brown resigned in February after the Montgomery County Chronicle wrote about a text message in which he told a German-born player “I am your new Hitler.” In June, the Montgomery County Attorney’s Office charged Brown with eight felony counts for allegedly pretending to be a lawyer from Johnnie Cochran’s Los Angeles law firm in an attempt to silence criticism in local newspapers.

College leaders say it’s a new day.

“We’re going to clean up the image and we’re going to build a championship culture and we’re going to be faith-based and be strong in mentoring and serving our community. We’re going to do things the right way,” said new athletic director Brett Vana.

New coach Kiyoshi Harris, who was the associate head coach and offensive line coach the last two seasons at Independence and featured in the Netflix series, says he has his own ideas for the program.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to run my own program and I’m going to put my own stamp on it,” Harris said. “We’re trying to change the culture. We’re trying to hold kids accountable and develop a little bit of work ethic. We have a pretty close-knit team and that’s something we haven’t seen in the last few years, which is a bonus. I’ve learned a lot of good things from (Brown), but there are other things and certain situations that I’ve done my own way.”

Last-Chance U focused on junior-college football, with the idea that the programs are often the last chance for players who are talented but sometimes have problems such as academic challenges or criminal records. Brown’s work to turn the Independence team into a contender was the focus of seasons 3 and 4.

Before going to Independence, Vana binge-watched the Netflix show.

“I grew up in the inner city of Cleveland, so my life was basically a mess growing up,” Vana said. “Seeing what these kids were coming from and seeing the lack of direction, I knew this was my calling. This is what I’m doing. I’m going to go there and mentor these players and these coaches and help this school rebuild their image with the community and nationwide. All the experiences I’ve had all over the world in various countries, all the way from Europe to Division I, this is what all of those experiences were meant for.”

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com

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