The Florida High School Athletic Association fined Plant’s baseball program Thursday and said the Panthers would have to forfeit 26 games and vacate their Class 6A-8 district title from this past season for using an ineligible player.
The FHSAA investigation, the details of which have been acquired by the Times in a seven-page email to Plant principal Rob Nelson, centered around an anonymous allegation that a Plant baseball player lied about where he lived. The player’s name was redacted in the report.
According to the report, the player began the 2010-11 school year at Jesuit, then transferred to Plant. Plant maintains that the student and his family provided false residency information to the school -- including TECO and DirectTV utility bills -- and that it never had any knowledge that the player did not live in Plant’s school district nor that the player had attended Jesuit this school year before enrolling at Plant.
“Plant High School has verified and re-verified addresses numerous times for various reasons (not just athletic) due to its academic and athletic success,” the school says in the report. “...Plant High School did not “knowingly” enroll (student) to play baseball for the 2011 season,” the school adds.
Plant also maintains in the report that coach Dennis Braun, who could not be immediately reached for comment, had no contact with the player before he enrolled at Plant.
As far as the player's eligibiliity goes, he will be allowed to finish the school year out at Plant, but will then enroll at Hillsborough, where his primary address is, for the 2011-12 school year, the school reported.
In addition, the FHSAA placed Plant’s athletic program on administrative probation for one year and fined the school $1,350 -- with $1,250 to cover the cost of the investigation. The school has 10 business days to appeal the ruling.
The Panthers finished this past season 19-8, falling to eventual state champion Alonso in the region semifinals.
This is the second time this spring that the Plant athletic department has been the focus of an FHSAA investigation. The FHSAA also found that former boys basketball coach Mike Phillips acted improperly in helping a Tampa Prep student find a home in Plant's zone.
-- EDUARDO A. ENCINA (email@example.com; Twitter: @EddieHometeam)