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TAMPA — After a lengthy and highly publicized investigation, Armwood High School finally got the penalty everyone thought it would Tuesday — a $12,000 fine and forfeiture of two seasons’ worth of victories and one state championship.
Six months of a Florida High School Athletic Association investigation, 19 infractions and a complete admission of guilt from Armwood, and we are left with one conclusion:
It wasn’t enough.
I don’t know anyone living outside of Seffner who actually looked at the penalties imposed Tuesday and thought, yep, that’s just about right.
The fine, half of which is reportedly going to be paid by the guilty parents (wink, wink), is a bargain, considering the going rate per game for playing an ineligible player is $2,500.
And taking away the state championship and all those wins, telling those who saw what they saw that it never happened, especially in the eyes of the coach and players, is meaningless and for posterity only.
Does anyone think Hawk Nation isn’t waving its championship ring-adorned middle finger toward Gainesville today?
What the FHSAA has given Armwood, however, is the Hawks’ rallying cry for next year’s state championship run.
Which begs the question: should there even be a state championship run next year?
Is a postseason ban is warranted?
Let’s face it, it’s the FHSAA’s hammer. It sends a message. It hurts.
The opposed would argue it unfairly punishes those who had nothing to do with Armwood’s infractions. But so does taking away a state championship, right?
One’s a punishment. The other one isn’t. The FHSAA just hasn’t figured that out yet.
The kinder and gentler FHSAA didn’t send the ultimate message because it refuses to put any blame at the feet of the coach or the administration.
Instead, it is penalizing the parents, by declaring their kids ineligible then fining the school for the games they played in and turning victories into losses.
In the process, it is ignoring, completely and inexplicably, the actions of coach Sean Callahan, who had contact with at least two of the five players before they enrolled, according to the investigation.
In its initial findings, the FHSAA includes an interview with John Lightsey, father of Orlando Dr. Phillips transfer Jack Lightsey, in which he says he had a 30- to 45-minute meeting with Callahan before enrolling.
Also in the report Callahan admits to allowing Javonte Sneed to practice with the team before he was enrolled, even though Callahan knew there were rules against it.
That the incident with Sneed went unmentioned and unpunished in Tuesday’s list of penalties is, well, stunning, especially considering it was listed as a violation in the initial report and a violation many coaches think they would have been fired for.
In 2006, for example, Tarpon Springs coach Bruce Buck was unaware of the rules against playing transfers in the spring when he let quarterback Worthy Jackson suit up even though the player hadn’t enrolled.
He was so upset by his “ignorance” of the rule, he resigned immediately. Back then, it was a serious violation.
Five years later, the FHSAA deals with a case in which the coach knew he was violating the same rule, writes him up for it, then makes no further mention of it.
How does that happen?
I’m not suggesting Callahan be fired, but I mention his role because in the bigger picture, which the FHSAA chose not to see, we have five kids enrolled using false addresses, and the head coach talked to two of them.
An assistant coach pretty much admitted that’s how it usually worked, changing his story later to that’s how he “assumed” it worked.
Nine more students enrolled in January with fake addresses, and already five have been declared ineligible for next season.
These aren’t outliers. These are signs of a culture of cheating.
Add it all up, and it seems the FHSAA is using a different calculator than the rest of us.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.