Nature Coast has shuttered its boys basketball program until Nov. 1, suspended head coach Dave Pisarcik six games and will not appeal additional penalties levied by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
The school announced the moves Friday, one day after the FHSAA handed the school a $500 fine and placed the program on administrative probation for the 2010-11 school year. That was in response to Nature Coast's self-reported violations and self-imposed sanctions.
Pisarcik was cited for improper contact with a Springstead boys basketball player and running offseason conditioning in violation of FHSAA bylaws.
Nature Coast principal Toni-Ann Noyes said Friday she was "very pleased" with the FHSAA's response.
For his part, Pisarcik denied any wrongdoing or recruiting but accepted the punishment.
"We run a clean program and we try to play by the rules," Pisarcik said. "I've been here five years and we've never had a problem with FHSAA or anything through the boys basketball program. We always do things by the rules."
This marks the latest in a string of well-documented troubles for the school's athletic department, some preceding Noyes and first-year athletic director Kristen Peeples.
In 2008, Nature Coast filed for an injunction against the FHSAA for the right to resume its football season. The FHSAA disqualified the Sharks from the playoffs after a brawl with Groveland South Lake and fined the school $10,400.
"I highly respect the association," Noyes said. "… (FHSAA associate executive director Denarvis) Thornton has been very forthcoming. I believe Nature Coast has built a relationship with him and his organization that we can talk to him."
Noyes said Nature Coast has been stigmatized because it is a magnet school, which in athletic circles is viewed as a potential recruiting tool.
"People have always said negative things about Nature Coast," Noyes said. "That's just the nature of the beast."
In this latest case, the FHSAA reduced each financial penalty from $2,500 to $250. The FHSAA said those penalties were reduced because of measures taken by Nature Coast.
An unnamed Springstead player Pisarcik transported home from an all-star game practice was a senior, and Pisarcik said he couldn't recruit him because he had exhausted his eligibility.
A handwritten letter by the player states Pisarcik inquired about other Springstead players: "… Coach P said he could use some of our guys to help his program."
Pisarcik denied those words: "I did give the ride home, but nothing was really said to that manner."
Noyes said another run-in with the FHSAA could cost Pisarcik his coaching job.
The impact of no basketball activities until Nov. 1 could be significant considering programs use the summer to play lots of games and work on chemistry.
Nature Coast's investigation began after Mike Bergantino, father of star player Tyler Bergantino, made allegations about recruiting.
Pisarcik declined to address specific questions about Mike Bergantino, but documents show Pisarcik has charged him with sending threatening e-mails and text messages.
The school has no plans to address the situation, Noyes said.
"I have to say throughout this Mr. Bergantino has been at the games," Noyes said. "… Dave is focused on the game and Mr. Bergantino handled himself with respect. We haven't seen a problem."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.