Statement by AHSAA (Alabama) Central Board of Control President Johnny Hardin

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    Statement by AHSAA (Alabama) Central Board of Control President Johnny Hardin

    Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board of Control (AHSAA News) - 1/7/19

    As President of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Central Board of Control, I would like to address the numerous stories being circulated regarding a recent eligibility ruling assessed to a student-athlete attending Charles Henderson High School (CHHS). Several facts involved in the ruling have either been misstated or ignored; therefore, I feel the need to provide the following details:

    No one (including USA Basketball or CHHS) disputes the Amateur Rule was violated. On August 15, 2018, USA Basketball paid the student $857.20 for lost wages while participating with the USA Basketball team over the past summer. Neither USA Basketball, the studentís parents, the studentís coach, nor CHHS administration reported the student had received the check until three months later, (specifically 91 days). During this time, the student played in several games. The AHSAA Amateur Rule states in part ďA student cannot accept payment for loss of time or wages while participating in athletics as part of expenses . . . A student who has lost his/her amateur standing may be reinstated after the lapse of one high school season for the sport in which he/she has become professional . . .Ē

    The check ($857.20) paid to the student was dated August 15, 2018, and endorsed by the student and posted to the studentís bank account on August 27, 2018. The studentís mother sent USA Basketball a check in the same amount three months later on November 28, 2018.

    The studentís mother is a certified AHSAA Basketball Coach; therefore, she is required to uphold current AHSAA bylaws and rules, including the Amateur Rule quoted above. Furthermore, the Head Girlsí Basketball Coach at CHHS is a former member of the AHSAA Central Board of Control; thus, she should not only appreciate the importance of knowing and following the AHSAA bylaws and eligibility rules but also understand how imperative it is to consistently uphold the same rules.

    Steve Savarese, as AHSAA Executive Director, made the eligibility ruling based upon the plain language of the Amateur Rule. As Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change a rule. Rather, as Executive Director, his job is to apply the rules as written.

    Following Mr. Savareseís ruling, the school appealed to both appellate levels for the AHSAA. First, to the District 2 Board Ė affirmed by unanimous vote of the 4-member Board. Next, to the Central Board of Control - affirmed by unanimous vote of the 15-member Board which represents the entire State. Thus, this ruling was affirmed by the Board that under the AHSAA Constitution has complete and final jurisdiction over all questions of the Constitution and Bylaws or other facts appealed to it by a member school. Mr. Savarese was not present at the District appeal or during deliberation at the Central Board hearing. To be clear, this ruling was affirmed by the Central Board of Control and as Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change or reverse a ruling made by the Central Board.

    Also, please remember, the AHSAA member schools, not Mr. Savarese nor the AHSAA staff, write and approve the AHSAA eligibility rules which include the Amateur Rule.

    The AHSAA Legislative Council has the authority each year at the annual meeting to amend the AHSAA Constitution and Rules. Meaning, each year the member schools (including Charles Henderson High School) have an opportunity to change a rule or create new ones. The penalty for violating the Amateur Rule has not been amended in at least the past 10 years with Mr. Savarese as Executive Director. Which, in turn, means each year Charles Henderson High School has agreed to the penalty for violating this Rule without comment or pursuing any kind of rule change within the legislative process.

    Each year these Rules are reviewed multiple times during AHSAA sponsored and hosted seminars with the member schools and are available on the AHSAA website. A review of all Summer Conference and Principalsí and Athletic Directorsí Conference attendees show the Principal for Charles Henderson High School has not attended the 2016, 2017, or 2018 Summer Conferences or the 2016, 2017 or 2018 Principalsí and Athletic Directorsí Conferences.

    The stories and comments being circulated throughout the media and social networks are asking that an exception be made to the Amateur Rule because it was not the studentís fault; the fact the money was repaid, and that the student is an exceptional athlete and will miss her senior year. However, if exceptions are made, there would no longer be a need for an Amateur Rule. The Rules are applied equally to ALL athletes. Furthermore, most eligibility violations are the result of adults failing to follow the rules. Here, the studentís mother as a certified AHSAA Coach should know the rules; the Schoolís Principal should know the rules, the Head Basketball Coach, as not only a Coach but also as a former Central Board member, should know the rules.

    Another point not mentioned in the public stories being circulated is that creating an exception to this Rule would have provided an avenue to exploit student-athletes by providing an opportunity for students to receive money and prizes for athletic participation and if discovered, state they didnít know the rule, thus allowing them to return the items and retain eligibility. This is why AHSAA stresses to the leadership of its member schools how important it is to know the rules and advise their students regarding all rules that affect eligibility. Informing student-athletes of the consequences for violating such rules is the responsibility of the adults supervising them.

    It should be pointed out that a high school student from Illinois also received payment from USA Basketball. However, that student called her high school once she received the check and then returned the check to USA Basketball without cashing or depositing it. Here, the student received the check, endorsed it and it was posted to her bank account. Three months later, AHSAA was notified and the monies returned to USA Basketball.

    A high school student from Missouri has also been ruled ineligible for this basketball season for accepting the lost wages payment from USA Basketball.

    USA Basketball never called Charles Henderson High School or AHSAA to ask if payment for lost wages violated AHSAA rules until November which was three months after payment was made and accepted by the student. This was not a clerical error but a complete lack of administrative oversight on the part of USA Basketball, thus possibly rendering multiple student-athletes ineligible as most states have an Amateur Rule.

    Lastly, misstated facts and placing Mr. Savareseís email on social media has led to Mr. Savarese and the AHSAA staff receiving threatening, irresponsible, and vulgar communications.

    We, as the Central Board of Control, stand by the staff of the AHSAA and thank them for their unwavering support of the AHSAA mission, educational athletics, as well as the AHSAA Constitution and Bylaws.

    AHSAA News | Statement by AHSAA Central Board of Control Presiden
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    It's an unfortunate situation for the girl, for sure.

    Having said that, the fact that she took the payment, and didn't return it until three months later pretty much seals her fate IMO. I find it hard to believe that any parent of a prominent HS athlete doesn't know that taking any sort of payment is a big no-no, and a risk for the athletes career.

    Some say USA Basketball should have checked with the AHSAA, but is that really their responsibility? Seems like that would fall on the athletes to know what their own Association's rules are. I think had she given the check back immediately and not deposited the funds she probably would have been okay.

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    That is more information in writing on one eligibility case than the KHSAA has provided on every eligibility case in KY over the past ten years.

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    Free Maori Davenport!

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    Unless I am missing something, and I read every word of that brief, while unfortunate, it appears that they handled that situation in the fairest and most equitable way possible.

    I 100% blame her mother, who knew better, yet allowed it to happen. Unfortunate that the daughter has to pay the price for Mom's mistake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Double Deuce View Post
    Unless I am missing something, and I read every word of that brief, while unfortunate, it appears that they handled that situation in the fairest and most equitable way possible.

    I 100% blame her mother, who knew better, yet allowed it to happen. Unfortunate that the daughter has to pay the price for Mom's mistake.
    Agreed. Knowing the mother's background, it's really inexcusable.

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    The punishment far exceeds this particular crime. For crying out loud, it was representing her country.....U.S.A. Basketball...or, am I missing something?

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    Should USA basketball have to answer a few questions?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Double Deuce View Post
    Unless I am missing something, and I read every word of that brief, while unfortunate, it appears that they handled that situation in the fairest and most equitable way possible.

    I 100% blame her mother, who knew better, yet allowed it to happen. Unfortunate that the daughter has to pay the price for Mom's mistake.
    Quote Originally Posted by TheDeuce View Post
    Agreed. Knowing the mother's background, it's really inexcusable.
    I thought her mother was actually a middle school coach, if so, I doubt that this is something that she would have received training on.

    To be honest, I doubt that very few know all the rules/bylaws they are supposed to be upholding.

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    It appears Alabama’s athletic association has no choice but to rule the player ineligible. The rule is clearly stated. To bend the rule and declare her eligible would be opening themselves up for all kinds of future scenarios and problems.

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    Overreach. Let the girl play. They are trying to save face and that’s it. Even the NCAA will let players pay money back without making them lose a whole season. This is asinine.

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    The girl went and represented her country and brought home a gold medal. You know this was an oversight of USA basketball. No need to punish the player. Just make the exception and be done with it. It happens all the time in our world. If she did something that was crazy wrong then no problem. But she did nothing wrong. Suck it up and do the right thing

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    Quote Originally Posted by catfan323 View Post
    The girl went and represented her country and brought home a gold medal. You know this was an oversight of USA basketball. No need to punish the player. Just make the exception and be done with it. It happens all the time in our world. If she did something that was crazy wrong then no problem. But she did nothing wrong. Suck it up and do the right thing
    I don’t think she should sit out the whole season but they did do something wrong. They took the check and deposited it when they knew they shouldn’t have.

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    Question? Not all that familiar with the big time AAU teams but from what I understand these players receive gear and shoes from the sponsors. Can someone explain to me how that is acceptable?

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    Quote Originally Posted by sweet16 View Post
    I don’t think she should sit out the whole season but they did do something wrong. They took the check and deposited it when they knew they shouldn’t have.
    I’m not sure I believe they knew they couldn’t deposit it. I have a hard time believing they would knowingly deposit it knowing her high school career would be finished. AHSAA can say what they want to save face but with all of the exceptions in rules I can see how confusion can set in. Especially when USA Basketball is paying for everything else for these kids. I coached middle school basketball and no way did I know every single rule and bylaw.

    They made a mistake. They rectified it. She’s missed plenty of games by now as punishment so like you said, let her play now.

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