Should Armwood ultimately be forced to relinquish the Class 6A state title it won in December, it won't be due to any recruiting-related improprieties, the head of Florida's prep sports governing body said Wednesday.
In a phone interview with the Times, Florida High School Athletic Association executive director Roger Dearing said his group's five-month investigation into the Hawks program is "95-percent complete," with the probe centering on potential residency violations.
"We don't suspect anybody from Armwood recruited," Dearing said.
Instead, Dearing drew an analogy to the high-profile case involving Lakeland High, forced to forfeit its entire 2010 season last fall for residency — and not recruiting — infractions.
In that case, the FHSAA ruled in part that three transfer students — two of them football players — allegedly falsified addresses and failed to make a full and complete move into Lakeland's geographic school district per FHSAA bylaws.
"We found that nobody at (Lakeland High) had anything to do with it," Dearing said. "It was totally an issue of three parents being deceptive."
Similarly, Hawks coach Sean Callahan has long maintained all the Hawks players who transferred to Armwood prior to the 2011 season were approved by the school administration.
The Armwood investigation is being led by Hillsborough school district employee and retired Washington, D.C., detective Troy Pumphrey, whom Dearing called "the best investigator we've got."
Dearing added he has had a handful of conversations with Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia, who he said is "very concerned" that her employees and coaches are abiding by FHSAA rules.
Once the investigation is complete, the FHSAA will submit its findings to Armwood High, which has 10 business days to respond. Any penalties will be handed down after the school's response to the findings.
"I know Troy was going to try and get one more reluctant witness, and if he can't arrange a conversation with that person, we'll go with what we have," Dearing said. "I hope to have it done by the end of April."