Record fine from FHSAA only part of the problem for Miramar Parkway

When Miramar Parkway Academy's athletic program was levied a state-record $260,800 fine and five-year postseason ban for all sports in June, the sanctions were referred to by many as a death penalty.

They weren't far off.

Parkway will send five people Wednesday to Gainesville to appeal the fine and ban, which stemmed solely from violations within the football program. But even if the Florida High School Athletic Association completely reverses course, significant damage has already occurred.

Parkway athletic director Adam Hopkins, who recently was elevated to the position after his predecessor, Charles Box, was named an assistant principal, said students transferred en masse in the wake of the sweeping sanctions. Because of Parkway's charter school status, students were allowed to return to their zoned schools with no penalty.

The flight of so many athletes to other schools means there are not enough players to field a football team this season, Hopkins said. Last year, the undefeated Parkway team had 38 players.

Other programs were hit hard as well, including Hopkins' girls basketball team, which lost 11 of 15 players.

The school had an enrollment of almost 500 last year (no current enrollment figure was available Monday). Hopkins, who has four daughters — one still enrolled at Parkway — hopes to mop up the mess.

"It's terminal to us," Hopkins said. "It's like somebody committed murder and you were punishing everybody."

Road to ruin

Parkway Academy was disqualified from the Class A football playoffs as the result of an FHSAA investigation that began in May 2009.

The investigation was conducted by three staff members and headed by associate executive director for compliance and eligibility services, Denarvise Thornton. The FHSAA also worked with an outside consultant.

In June 2010, the FHSAA announced the fine and ban based on 32 violations within the football program — everything from using ineligible players in games to using players from other schools at practices. (Football coach Anthony Harris is still employed at the school as the dean of students.)

Parkway rejected all but three of the FHSAA's findings. Parkway conceded to allowing three students to participate in spring football practices while they attended another school; allowing a student to participate in a varsity football game and a JV football game within the same week; and not having a fully executed FHSAA contract on file for its 2009-10 football contests. The total for those violations: $7,600.

Thornton said the investigation was lengthy for several reasons.

"We started addressing it under one administration," Thornton said. "We had changes in staff, changes in responsibilities. Therefore, files had to be transferred over. That was part of the transitional phase. … When you gather information that is far more involved than one kid played in one game, one coach went to one kid's house, when you have something that is far more involved than that, then it's better to take our time and be as thorough as we can.

"We try to be speedy in our dealings, but at the same time we want to make sure we get the information right."

Clearly, the dollar figure of the fine was an eye-opener across the state. Thornton defends the number, noting a formula was used to come up with the final tally.

"Because schools are financially strapped at this time, the general public tends to look at the dollar figure first," Thornton said. "Never mind the egregiousness of the violations. Never mind the number of violations, but just look at the overall total and begin to compare that. If you … compare that from one school to another school, you find yourself comparing apples to oranges. The number of violations and the nature of violations might be vastly different."

The fine surpasses the previous record of $38,000 handed to Bradenton Prep in 2008; it was later reduced to $34,750. Bradenton Prep withdrew from the FHSAA to avoid paying the fine.

Hopkins said Parkway officials have discussed withdrawing but determined it was not a good option, citing an impact on the school's fundraising efforts and sports scheduling (FHSAA member schools are not allowed to compete in regular-season games against nonmembers).

If Parkway must pay the full fine, it can do so through a payment plan.

"That's enormous for a small school," Hopkins said.

The message

After word of Parkway's fine spread, Thornton said he has noticed one change.

"Schools are being more diligent," Thornton said. "We have had a few calls with respect to compliance questions we may not normally receive. People don't want to find themselves in a situation such as that. If nothing else, the dollar figure being part of any title in any article is going to make someone stop and read the whole article and dissect it."

In Miramar, Hopkins anxiously awaits Wednesday's meeting — another step in the cleanup process.

Aside from the loss of students, Hopkins said he feels the school's reputation is taking a hit. It hurts him as a girls basketball coach knowing he has run a successful program and that the lowest GPA on last year's team was a 3.8.

"People think Parkway is one of the worst places in the world," Hopkins said. "It's messed up my name. In my sport, you're a pretty good coach to some. To others, it wasn't your doing, but you have to live with it.

"It's tainted your name."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

The violations

A look at the 32 violations the Florida High School Athletic Association discovered in Miramar Parkway Academy's football program and the fine for each (repetitive violations involve different athletes), which adds up to a record $260,800:

1. Parkway Academy allowed three students to participate in its 2008-09 spring football practices while attending Westlake Preparatory Academy. Two students practiced three days; one practiced seven-plus days. Fine: $7,500 *

2. A PA representative invited a Westlake Prep student to PA's 2009 spring football practice. Fine: $2,500

3. Allowed non-PA students to practice in pads before completing the mandatory three days of noncontact drills. Fine: $2,500

4. Two coaches provided transportation for non-PA students to 2009 spring football practices. Fine: $2,500

5. PA allowed eighth-graders to participate in 2009 football practices. Fine: $5,000 (minimum fine was $2,500, but the FHSAA determined more than one eighth-grader participated)

6. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in the 2009 spring football classic/jamboree while ineligible. Fine: $2,500

7. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in the 2009 spring football classic/jamboree while ineligible. Fine: $2,500

8. PA allowed ineligible student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic contests during the 2009-10 football season. Fine: $22,600 (The ineligible player played in nine varsity contests according to several witnesses interviewed by the FHSAA, and the school did not have the necessary paperwork. The association also notes: "This office considers such contrasting presentation of information by Principal (Clarissa) Wright an act of falsifying information.")

9. PA allowed ineligible student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic contests during the 2009-10 football season. Fine: $7,500

10. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in football contests in 2009-10 school year while ineligible. Fine: $25,000 (The FHSAA notes the student participated in 10 football games while ineligible.)

11. PA principal Wright demonstrated a lack of institutional control with respect to the administration of PA's athletic program. Fine: $10,000 (FHSAA notes Wright maintains "control of all phases of the interscholastic athletic activities and has provided contradicting information in the responses provided.")

12. PA football coach Anthony Harris demonstrated a lack of cooperation by presenting false information to the FHSAA investigative consultant. Fine: $2,500

13. Wright allowed student-athletes to participate in 2009-10 interscholastic contests before verifying and/or reporting the students' eligibility status through the required method of reporting eligibility via C2Cschools.com. PA participated in 14 varsity and JV football contests without the students being submitted electronically to C2Cschools.com. Fine: $100

14. Wright allowed student (name redacted) to receive grades for a class that he did not complete or take. Fine: None ("With documented testimony, no corrective actions or no further attention to the matter.")

15. Wright accepted grades for student (name redacted) from West Park High School in which the student reportedly completed coursework for second semester seventh grade, first and second semester eighth grade during the period of February 2009 to June 2009. Students (names redacted) entered the ninth grade at PA in August 2009. Fine: None (The student transferred to Miami Carol City High School, and no grades before ninth grade were included in those transcripts.)

16. Harris provided impermissible benefits to students attending PA by facilitating registration in West Park High School for the purpose of improving student transcripts. West Park is not approved to provide grade recovery services in Broward County Public Schools nor is West Park accredited by an FHSAA approved accreditation agency. Fine: $2,500

17. PA participated in two illegal scrimmages against Northeast High in football. Fine: $500

18. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic football contests during the 2009-10 school year while ineligible. Fine: $25,000 ("FHSAA bylaw 10 holds member schools accountable for intentionally or inadvertently playing student-athletes while ineligible.")

19. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic football contests during the 2009-10 school year while ineligible. Fine: $20,000 ("Coach Harris and student (name redacted) provided statements that (name redacted) did not play for Parkway. Coach Eddie Harris, and coach George Fairell stated student (name redacted) participated in eight contests while ineligible.)

20. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic football contests during the 2009-10 school year while ineligible. Fine: $25,000 ("PA failed to provide the requested information.")

21. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic football contests during the 2009-10 school year while ineligible. Fine: $25,000

22. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic football contests during the 2009-10 school year while ineligible. Fine: $25,000

23. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in interscholastic football contests during the 2009-10 school year while ineligible. Fine: $25,000

24. PA allowed student (name redacted) to participate in two interscholastic contests while attending another school. Fine: $5,000

25. PA student (name redacted) participated in junior varsity and varsity football contest(s) within the same one week. Fine: $100 *

26. PA violated Policy 36 Athletic Recruiting by the successful transfer of nonstudents transferring to PA after having participated in interscholastic activities representing PA. Four students considered to be successfully recruited are (names redacted). Fine: $7,500 (FHSAA accepts PA's claim that three of the students exercised school choice.)

27. PA coach (name redacted) provided false statements to the FHSAA. Fine: $2,500

28. PA coach Bill Lampkin provided false statement to the FHSAA. Fine: $2,500

29. PA does not have a fully executed FHSAA contract on file for all of its 2009-10 football contests. Fine: None *

30. PA had not entered its 2010 football schedule. Fine: None

31. PA did not fully cooperate with the investigation process. Fine: None

32. Harris escorted FHSAA investigative consultant off school premises during the course of the investigation. Fine: $2,500

* Violations Miramar Parkway admitted to.

Record fine from FHSAA only part of the problem for Miramar Parkway 08/16/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 8:18am]

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