MEMO to the AIA: OK, guys, you have their attention. Now let’s get real.
The decision by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) to slap a post-season ban on all the athletic teams at Deer Valley High School was, by the organization’s own admission, perhaps the most severe penalty yet imposed by the state’s governing body for high school sports because it affects the entire athletic program.
Chuck Schmidt, the AIA associate executive director who recommended the probation to the executive board at its meeting on Tuesday, said in an Arizona Republic article that he researched a decade’s worth of files to try to find a similar circumstance, where the entire administration knowingly disregarded an AIA by-law, but came up empty.
That’s when he came up with the idea for a blanket ban that would make all of the school’s sports team ineligible for the playoffs this year. It took just 10 minutes for the executive board to rubber-stamp Schmidt’s recommendation.
In other words, let’s punish all the kids for the mistakes of a few adults.
Hopefully, this is all a scare tactic to let everyone know how serious this issue is viewed by the AIA, and the penalty will be adjusted at the next meeting – after the organization has made its point.
(*Update: It took a little while, but the AIA finally got it right. At an Oct. 8 meeting, the board lifted the post-season ban for all the other sports, while leaving it in place for football. However, that issue will be taken up again at the regularly-scheduled board meeting on Oct. 21 and it’s possible the football team may still get the chance for playoff participation.
*Oct. 21 – The AIA voted to remove the probationary status put on Deer Valley football, replacing it with something called “advisement” that is the lowest level of discipline. So the football program is eligible again for the playoffs. Still under investigation is whether two transfers to the program were illegally recruited.)
The violation centers around two football players, Marquette Mitchell and Brian Calhoun, who were allowed to play in the school’s season-opener, despite the fact that they had been ruled ineligible to play after transferring in from Centennial High School. Both had filed hardship appeals that were initially turned down and a second round of appeals was pending when game time rolled around.
So while another appeal was being made to the AIA, the school’s principal, athletic director, and football coach decided to let the boys, both juniors, play in the opener against Shadow Ridge High School – which Deer Valley lost anyhow. The AIA considered that a “willful disregard” of the organization’s bylaws and determined it required disciplinary action of a large measure.
That part makes sense. Applying the punishment across the board to penalize other programs that had no involvement in the issue does not.
Eric Bolus, Deer Valley’s head football coach, was joined at the AIA meeting by Principal Barbara Dobbs and John Allen, the school’s athletic director, to present their side of the issue. They acknowledged that they knew what they were doing was against AIA regulations, but felt at the time that it was in the best interest of the players.
That argument didn’t get them very far.
To add to the drama, an investigator has been hired by the AIA to look into allegations that both of the players involved may have been recruited to play for Deer Valley – yet another breach of AIA rules. Centennial reported the possible recruiting violation, asserting that two assistant coaches at Deer Valley, Charles Miller and Joe Ponce, may have been involved. Both left Deer Valley to coach the JV team at Centennial last season and then returned to Deer Valley last spring. They were reportedly dismissed from the Deer Valley program last month on the heels of the recruiting allegations.
It looks like the whole mess will continue to unfold into next month, since the school has indicated it plans to appeal the post-season ban for all its sports at the Oct. 21 AIA meeting… and the report from the investigator may also be ready in time for that meeting. Ahh…the pot is boiling.
In the meantime, the issue will continue to foment among the parents and players of the other 21 sports at Deer Valley that aren’t football.