Bradenton Prep was handed a whopping $38,000 fine this week, the largest ever dished out by the Florida High School Athletic Association. It's only the latest in a string of record fines handed out by the organization in recent years. The FHSAA's Web site shows 66 of 645 member schools are on restrictive probation and more than 90 schools are currently on some form of probation. Here are some of the more notable examples.
The $38,000 fine would have been stiffer if the school had not cut loose a pair of athletic directors and basketball coaches among other self-imposed sanctions. This one went all the way to the top with principal Susan Hedgecock providing housing for an athlete. Two more athletes lived with people tied to the school. The program was found to have recruited basketball players using "outside agents and college recruiters" specifically naming Virginia Commonwealth University assistant Tony Pujol in its findings. The school also falsified an FHSAA financial document and lied about the attendance of a preseason classic. In all, there were 19 violations in three sports. The school has vowed to appeal the ruling and has until June 24 to do so.
West Oaks Academy
In January, the Orlando school was handed a then-record fine of $26,550 after three individual cases involving the use of ineligible athletes, which prompted the FHSAA to say the school was "operating without administrative control." One athlete actually played in three football games using another kid's name and wearing another kid's number. The kicker — he wasn't even enrolled at the school and wouldn't have been eligible anyway because he already had burned his four years of eligibility. Another case involved an athlete who played in 19 games despite not having the minimum 2.0 GPA to be academically eligible. He also had enrolled at two other schools during the same school year before landing at West Oaks. The school lost its appeal and withdrew from the FHSAA in March without paying one cent. According to an Orlando Sentinel report, the school also encouraged other private schools to break away from the FHSAA to form an independent league.
Jacksonville Potter's House Christian Academy became the second FHSAA member expelled since 1940 after committing three major rules violations within a year. The key violation occurred when five girls basketball players transferred to the school to follow their coach Tony Bannister from Shekinah Christian while the school was on probation. The school continues to participate as an "approved member" and the basketball team came within a win of playing for the NACA national championship. Scheduling has become a major problem with few local teams willing to take games and with no district schedule or the opportunity to play for a state title. The school can apply for reinstatement in 2010.
Homestead Berkshire School was handed what amounts to the death penalty after it was expelled in 2000 for five years after recruiting eight boys and four girls for its basketball teams laden with international players. The school had to forfeit all of its games and was fined $2,500. In addition, the school was required to reimburse the FHSAA for legal fees totaling $11,016.97. The school has since closed.
Other notable controversies
St. Petersburg Catholic was fined $13,000 in 2006 and the football team was banned from postseason competition through next season. The fine was one of the stiffest handed down at the time. The penalties were for three recruiting violations and holding offseason practices. SPC paid a fine and won an appeal Thursday to be fully reinstated. Lakeland High became the center of controversy when star running back Chris Rainey almost had his eligibility pulled and threatened the Dreadnaughts' state title hopes after he bragged to the Miami Herald he received free clothes and money from people, which would have threatened his amateur status. Now at UF, Rainey later said he was joking and was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Nature Coast was fined $1,250 in 2006 and placed on three years probation after its coaches were found guilty of four recruiting violations. Hernando County athletic directors had threatened to withdraw from the county's athletic conference alleging Nature Coast had taken advantage of its status as a non-zoned school. Orlando Christian Prep was fined $10,000 and banned from postseason play through 2010 for recruiting and housing two players, including former Gulf star Dominique English. In addition, the girls were declared ineligible for the remainder of their senior seasons. Coach William "Buck" Lanham was fired before the season. The fine was reduced to $5,000 in January 2007 on appeal.
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 580-5315.
Pay the fine, do the time