Nature Coast Tech football fined, reprimanded in recruiting case (UPDATED, 3:01 p.m.)



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Thu. July 8, 2010 | John C. Cotey | Email

When assistant football coach Rudy Story came to principal Toni-Ann Noyes and asked for help getting special waivers to help his two nephews get out of a bad situation back home and into a better one living with him and attending Nature Coast, her immediate reaction was yes, of course.

What she didn't know at the time, however, is that both nephews were football players at Pasco High.

Only after Pasco called and alleged recruiting did Noyes realize her beleaguered program could be in line for another public relations hit.

"I thought, (the perception will be) here we go again,'' she said.

Noyes denies her program did any recruiting, and the players in questionh never enrolled, but Thursday the Florida High School Athletic Association levied a $2,500 fine -- $1,250 for each player -- and placed on administrative probation after finding Nature Coast guilty of illegally tampering with the Pasco football players.

The Nature Coast program also received a reprimand, resulting in an official letter of censure.

According to the FHSAA, Nature Coast had illegal contact and discussed "impermissable benefits" with the players before they were enrolled or applied to attend the school.

Pirate football players Willie Jackson, who will be a senior running back this fall, and sophomore linebacker David Emanuel, withdrew from Pasco near the end of the school year and were attempting to transfer to Nature Coast and live with Story, who is also Florida commitment Ja'Juan Story's uncle.

Jackson, who missed last season with a broken leg and spoke fondly in the spring of the Pasco coaching staff's help during the rehabilitation process, was expected to start this fall. Emanuel was considered one of the better rising sophomores in the county.

Noyes expressed disappointment at the findings and insists Nature Coast was only acting in the student's best interests. She said Story came to her "distraught" about a family situation, and she was trying to help him.

"He didn't say I have two nephews coming to play football,'' Noyes said. "The moment I heard the recruiting accusations, the ball started rolling. We called the FHSAA and self-reported. Recruiting never was in play here. He was an employee who was distraught about his family.''

After their initial investigation, the FHSAA expressed concerns that:

1. There was a discussion between a Nature Coast representative and one of the players regarding his academic status, and the suggestion he did not have to take certain tests at Nature Coast.

2. The students were not originally identified as football players who intended on playing in the fall.

3. Only one student was discussed, but allegations that other students had been improperly contacted by Story were never addressed.

Nature Coast looked at these concerns and concluded in their response that no violations had occurred and that Story was acting as a family member and not a representative of the school.

Story told the FHSAA he would be seeking legal custody of the players though a court order. He was seeking a special exception for the players to attend Nature Coast as children of an employee. However, since he has not adopted the players yet, it is an exception he does not qualify for.

And the FHSAA said despite claims of poor living conditions for the students at their current homes, threats toward the students by family, schoolmates and school personnel as well as harrassment and bullying, their was no official documentation (like police records or school reports) to back that up. It is unclear if Story was also going to adopt the player's younger siblings also living in those same homes.

Another red flag -- the timing. Nature Coast's application and selection process runs from November through January.

The FHSAA report does not address the players' eligibility for the upcoming season, and won't until they enroll in a school.

Story lives in Hernando High's zone.

Nature Coast can appeal the latest penalty assessed to its football program, though Noyes said she wasn't sure at this moment if the school would. She said that she and athletic director Kristen Peeples have worked hard to restore the image of the school's athletic program, and this setback was frustrating.

The Sharks were also placed on administrative probation in 2008 for its role in a bench-clearing brawl at Groveland South Lake. The Sharks were fined $10,400, banned from the playoffs that season and not allowed to play a spring game in 2009.

Last year, coach Mark Lee was fired after one season, and Mark Nash was hired as the program's third coach in three years.

The latest football punishment comes less than a month after Nature Coast’s boys basketball program was placed on administrative probation for a year and fined $500 after self reporting violations to the FHSAA. Nature Coast has shuttered its basketball until November.


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