A high school sleepover is at the center of a football recruiting investigation at Hernando High.
The Florida High School Athletic Association reprimanded the school last week after it ruled principal Ken Pritz had allowed an unnamed football player to stay over at his house. That player lived in Pasco County but was granted an exemption to enroll at Hernando.
FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers said Wednesday that the FHSAA determined staying at the Pritz residence was an “impermissible benefit for a student-athlete that was not available to other students at Hernando.”
“(The) student enjoyed the benefit by frequently residing/staying overnight/lodging at the principal’s house, particularly during the school week. …” FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing wrote to the school in a letter dated June 21. “The student’s frequency of lodging at the principal’s residence, which was not the residence indicated on all school forms, purported to be a violation of FHSAA bylaws and policies.”
Pritz was out of his office and could not be reached Wednesday afternoon, but assistant principal Brent Gaustad said the violation isn’t as clear cut as it seems.
The student-athlete is originally from Hernando County, Gaustad said, and he wanted to come back to Hernando for his senior year. Pasco school officials raised no issue with the player’s transfer, and Pritz told the FHSAA that the exemption was not granted because of athletic reasons.
Gaustad said the player spent the night at the principal’s home because he was good friends with Pritz’s son, who also attended Hernando.
Pritz told the FHSAA that some of his son’s other friends also slept over at his home. Gaustad said that shows the benefit was available to other Hernando students.
“He grew up here,” Gaustad said of the player. “His best friend is the principal’s son. He stayed overnight sometimes at the house with other guys.”
The FHSAA fined Hernando $2,500 — half of which will be waived in June 2013 if the school commits no other recruiting violations. The school also received a $100 fine for lacking proper paperwork on the transfer but will not have to forfeit any games.
Gaustad said Hernando will appeal the decision.
“Obviously we’re not happy with this,” Gaustad said, “and we will be appealing it because what we think is, this is not justified.”
Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.