BASTROP, La. - Bastrop High School will have to forfeit its football championship under a Louisiana High School Athletic Association ruling that it illegally recruited players and violated the residency transfer rule last year, the Morehouse Parish School Board president said.
Board president Kris McKoin confirmed Monday night that the LHSAA had ruled against Bastrop High. All of the players involved were hurricane evacuee transfers from Port Sulphur High, and all will be ineligible this coming season, McKoin said.
From USA Today:
The LHSAA delivered its punishment this week because assistant coaches physically brought the players to Bastrop instead of the players arriving under their own power. . . .
The link between [Port Sulphur and Bastrop] high schools is D'Carlos Holmes, a former Port Sulphur assistant who joined the Bastrop staff weeks before Katrina. . . .
"These kids were in shelters and contacted (Holmes)," Hartley says. "He may have been the only person they knew who was above water at that point. I know our coaches did not think they were doing anything illegal."
The LHSAA enacted special rules last September to accommodate athletes affected by Katrina that made it easier to transfer. But despite the storm, the LHSAA kept its restrictions on recruiting other schools' athletes intact.
Among additional penalties handed down are a $14,000 fine, the sanctioning of Holmes, who can coach at practice but cannot participate in games, and a one-year administrative probation for the school.
The coach who may be guilty of illegally recruiting (that is, illegally recruiting by offering homes to students who were essentially homeless and living in shelters) is sanctioned, but the players involved lose their eligibility for the season. While the Bastrop staff may have acted illegally, the kids were just scrambling to find a home and a school in the wake of one of the worst natural disasters in American history. And in addition to having their championship taken away, they are losing their eligibility, which could have devastating effects on players who were looking at playing college ball.
Why is the Louisiana High School Athletic Association punishing these students so severely, especially given their unique circumstances? Given the severity of Katrina, I'm a little shocked even that the school and the coaches are being reprimanded; but the players? Haven't these kids been through enough already? Why take away their football?