There’s been some interesting reactions since the Kentucky High School Athletic Association dropped the hammer on the Cordia basketball program for a string of alleged violations, from recruiting to paying for the costs of players’ travel and practicing illegally.
The KHSAA listed 14 different violations as a result of the investigation in the release, including:
• Falsifying records, or maintaining inaccurate records with regards to living arrangements of transferring student-athletes;
• Allowing a staff member to lease housing to the family of a student-athlete without ever receiving payment;
• Impermissible contact with multiple student-athletes with the intent to sway them to enroll at Cordia for the purpose of competing in athletics;
• Providing free transportation to relocate a student from an out-of-state school;
• Providing plane tickets on two separate occasions to a student-athlete so he could travel out-of-state;
• Facilitating housing for a student-athlete at no cost to him or his family;
• Providing money and clothes to student-athletes;
• Conducting tryouts for non-enrolled students;
• Paying the entire cost of education for two students on an F-1 exchange VISA to attend Cordia;
• Providing housing to numerous students that participated on the boys’ basketball team, as well as housing for their families;
• Allowing ineligible players to practice and compete in contests before they were cleared to participate;
• Requiring players to attend practice prior to the official start date for preseason practice (Oct. 15), and disciplining students who missed these practice sessions;
• Holding “open gym” practices that were limited to the boys’ basketball team and thus mandatory, following the elimination from the postseason; and
• Failing to properly monitor the coaching requirements for individuals coaching in the boys’ basketball program, including the obligation to complete the legislatively mandated Sports Safety Course. These violations included a 30-day period during the 2013-14 season when no member of the coaching staff met the requirements of Bylaw 25.
While Cordia’s punishment was hailed by many, some have argued the small Knott County school is being unfairly singled out for doing what schools around the state have been getting way with for years.
There’s no question that transfers/recruiting is a problem across the state and has become especially troublesome in the 14th Region, where Perry Central and Hazard, among others, have brought in high profile players in recent years to help them win championships.
There are, however, shades of gray, in both life and high school basketball.
Hazard bringing in three players from other countries for next year’s team is more than a little unsavory and not what I would expect from a proud program that has won multiple regional titles without going to such extreme measures.
Cordia, as the allegations show, built its entire program, with only a handful of exceptions, from hired guns brought in from around the nation and beyond. In the space of only a couple of seasons, former UK player Rodrick Rhodes helped turn the 14th Region into a three-ring circus.
It’s interesting that Rhodes was once considered a candidate for the vacant boys basketball position at Harlan after Casey Lester stepped down three years ago. Harlan may have won a few more games by opening an national/international recruiting pipeline, but a school remembered this week as the home of the great Wah Wah Jones would never allow its basketball program to spiral out of control as Cordia’s did the past three years.
The KHSAA tried earlier to stop the madness, ruling Josh Ortiz from Harlem (New York) and Richard Chapman from Newark (New Jersey) ineligible, but a Franklin County Circuit judge reporedly reversed the decision on the day of the All “A” Classic state quarterfinals. Cordia went on to finish as the state runner-up in the tourney.
The KHSAA is a convenient whipping boy for everyone who has a complaint about high school sports. Some criticize the KHSAA for not doing enough to stop recruiting, others will complain when they do rule someone ineligible. In this case, it certainly looks like the people in charge in Lexington did their homework and have more than enough evidence to defend the suspension of the boys program for the 2015 season and postseason and for the 2016 postseason.
Perhaps this will be the first step in returning high school sports to the days when players from one community/county played against players from another community/county and the best team/community/county won.
We can only hope.