Monday, February 19, 2018
Sports

Armwood High football team must forfeit state title, pay more than $12,000

Since recently acknowledging it used five ineligible football players during its undefeated state championship season last fall, Armwood High has awaited the grim formality of having its title taken away.

The wait ended Tuesday, with a 16-page document steeped in stern language and irony.

Nearly six months to the day after their 40-31 victory against Miami Central in the Class 6A final, the Hawks must relinquish their trophy and pay more than $12,000 in fines and investigative costs, the Florida High School Athletic Association informed the school Tuesday.

Officially, the school must forfeit every game in which the ineligible players — three of whom were starters — participated last season. Additionally, Armwood must forfeit 11 games (10 of them victories) from the 2010 season in which an ineligible player competed.

The football program also was placed on three years' administrative probation and given a letter of reprimand. Principal Michael Ippolito, coach Sean Callahan and athletic director Don Hill must attend an FHSAA compliance seminar.

Armwood will not appeal, Hillsborough County school district spokesman Steve Hegarty said. Peter J. Hobson, a local lawyer representing several Armwood parents, previously indicated his clients likely would appeal.

Callahan declined to comment when reached Tuesday, referring all questions to Ippolito, who was attending a teachers' job fair at Jefferson High.

University of Oklahoma-bound outside linebacker Eric Striker, the catalyst of Armwood's 2011 defense, declined to comment. Left guard Cody Waldrop, reached Tuesday at the University of South Carolina, said the '11 team will forever be champion in his eyes.

"No matter what happens, no one can take that season and that day (the state title game) away from us," said Waldrop, who signed with the Gamecocks in February.

The $12,743.46 price tag includes $6,543.46 for the costs of a six-month investigation conducted by Troy Pumphrey, a former Washington detective hired as an independent contractor for $250 a day. The $6,200 in fines breaks down to a $100 per player penalty for each game in which an ineligible student athlete participated.

FHSAA policies call for a $2,500 per student, per contest fine, but the FHSAA lowered the penalty considerably because the school cooperated with the investigation.

"I will tell you everyone I've worked with and spoken to from the district is very concerned about this, and intent on tightening procedures," FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing told the Tampa Bay Times last week.

Hegarty said the school is on the hook for the investigative costs, but emphasized no taxpayer money will be used to pay them.

However, Hegarty said, Armwood will require the parents of the ineligible players — even those who have graduated — to pay their share of the fine. He cited a form parents sign at the beginning of the school year agreeing to pay any monetary penalties incurred by them or their children.

"Our point of view is that we're expecting that the parents will do the right and fair thing and pay their portion of the fine," Hegarty said. "If they do not, what remedies do we have? We would consult with the School Board attorney to see what those remedies might be. We hope it doesn't come to that."

The penalties represent the culmination of a drawn-out saga that began with an ABC Action News investigative report last fall questioning whether the family of offensive lineman Jack Lightsey, who attended Orlando's Dr. Phillips High as a junior, made a "full and complete move" into Armwood's geographic school zone as required by FHSAA bylaws.

A 45-page report detailing Pumphrey's findings revealed Lightsey and four other members of the 2011 team falsified residence information, ranging from false lease agreements to fraudulent verification of utilities service, to enroll at the school.

Two weeks ago, Ippolito indicated he agreed with all the substantial findings in a formal response to the investigation.

Additionally, Ippolito wrote that he deemed one of the five players, previously identified by the Times as receiver Javonte Sneed, ineligible in August 2010 upon discovering Sneed officially was still enrolled at Durant High. Ippolito noted Sneed played in 11 games that fall, before it was determined he provided fraudulent information to an FHSAA appeals committee that had cleared him to play.

On Tuesday, Lightsey maintained his family's innocence, saying he and his mother moved into an apartment in Armwood's zone after the separation of his parents and filled out all the necessary transfer paperwork Armwood required. In Pumphrey's report, Lightsey's dad said he and Lightsey's sister moved to Indian Rocks Beach, with the dad maintaining a home office in Orlando.

"I know at the end of the day me and my family did right and a few of the other families did right and we can't help that the administration at Armwood High didn't give us the right information that put us in this situation," said Lightsey, who recently signed with Mercer University in Macon, Ga.

"It's just a shame that my character and my family's character has gone downhill because of wrong accusations and a terrible, terrible investigation that doesn't show both sides of the story, honestly."

Bearing some of the collateral damage will be Callahan's quest for a milestone. He initially entered the 2012 season three victories shy of 200. The 25 forfeited wins leave his career victory total at 172.

His players, however, get to keep the medals presented to them at the conclusion of the state title game and the championship rings purchased through private donations.

"I'd like to see the FHSAA try to take (the ring) from me," Lightsey said. "I'd love to see them try."

Comments
Trade rumors can weigh on NHL players as deadline approaches

Trade rumors can weigh on NHL players as deadline approaches

WASHINGTON – Tyler Johnson was as good as gone.Or so it seemed.The scuttlebutt around last year's trade deadline was that the Lightning center could be the piece headed elsewhere to land a top-four defenseman. Maybe Nashville? St. Louis?Then th...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Freestyle skier doesn’t even bother to try tricks in Olympic women’s halfpipe

Freestyle skier doesn’t even bother to try tricks in Olympic women’s halfpipe

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The words left Liz Swaney’s lips without an ounce of irony. No telling curl of the lips. No wink. Nothing. She meant them. All of them. "I didn’t qualify for finals so I’m really disappointed," the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

TAMPA — Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart says he’s ready to put his checkbook where his heart is when it comes to supporting a Tampa Bay Rays move to Ybor City.So is the investment fund for the founding family of Ashley Furniture. So, it ap...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Video: Swiss skier Fabian Bosch explains his viral escalator stunt

Video: Swiss skier Fabian Bosch explains his viral escalator stunt

Last week, a video went viral that showed Swiss freestyle skier Fabian Bosch dangling while hanging onto an escalator, arm outstretched, as a teammate rode alongside him."We had to wait until our apartment was ready, so we had to kill time, we got re...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Wardrobe issues cause Olympic stress for French skaters

Wardrobe issues cause Olympic stress for French skaters

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The first notes of Ed Sheeran’s "Shape of You" had just played when Gabriella Papadakis suddenly became aware that people were about to see a whole lot more of her shape than she had planned. The French ice dancer’s glitterin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Girls basketball: A look at Tuesday’s region games

Girls basketball: A look at Tuesday’s region games

All games at 7 p.m.Class 9AAlonso (22-2) at Orlando Oak Ridge (16-12)What to know: The Ravens must hit the road for the semifinals, and it could be a tough matchup. The Pioneers had no trouble in their district tournament and won the first region gam...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Video: Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick gives advice to Little Leaguers

Video: Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick gives advice to Little Leaguers

Ryan Fitzpatrick is an unrestricted free agent, and his future with the Bucs remains uncertain. But the veteran quarterback is still very much here in Tampa and still sharing his wisdom with younger athletes.In this case, they're much younger —...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Live from Port Charlotte: First full squad workout

Live from Port Charlotte: First full squad workout

The Rays held their first full squad workout today, though RF Steven Souza Jr., did not work out because of a family matter. He had already reported to camp.More fallout from Saturday's Jake Odorizzi trade and DFA'ing of Corey Dickerson. This time fr...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Better ‘D’ starts at home with Lightning

Better ‘D’ starts at home with Lightning

TAMPA – The Lightning still might land that top tier defenseman it certainly needs by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. But if that player was wearing a Tampa Bay sweater Saturday, would the outcome against the Devils have been any different?The Ligh...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Boys basketball: Top seed Carrollwood Day dominant from start

CLEARWATER — Pressure, intensity and energy.In Saturday's Class 4A-4 district title game at Calvary Christian, Carrollwood Day's six-man rotation put the heat squarely and constantly on Tampa Prep. Playing up-tempo offense behind savvy poi...
Updated: 4 hours ago