FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 1998
Miami High School found guilty of FHSAA rules violations
GAINESVILLE Miami High School has been found guilty of major rules violations in its baseball, boys basketball and boys soccer programs by Florida High School Activities Association Commissioner Ron Davis, the FHSAA announced today.
Electing to withhold the most severe penalty suspension from membership in the Association which he believed the violations may have warranted, Davis instead levied penalties on the schools athletic program which included $2,550.00 in fines; a directive to forfeit all games in those sports in which certain players participated; a requirement that the school return all trophies and awards received by these teams, including the schools 1998 Class 6A state boys basketball championship; restriction from participation in the FHSAA State Series in baseball and boys basketball during the 1998-99 school year; restriction from participation in any baseball or boys basketball contests other than regular season games during the 1998-99 school year; and a requirement that the school reimburse the Association $5,155.81 for expenses incurred in its investigation of the schools athletic programs.
Additionally, student-athletes Jose Bellazetin, Fernando Alejos, Jose Amayo, Udonis Haslem, Antonio Latimer, Steve Blake, Thaddeus Ambrose and Damian Fray were declared permanently ineligible for interscholastic athletic competition at Miami High School; and ineligible at any FHSAA member school during the 1998-99 school year. Amayo, Haslem, Latimer and Ambrose have graduated. Bellazetin, Alejos and Fray will be juniors. Blake will be a senior.
Miami High School Principal Victor Lopez was notified by fax earlier today of Davis findings, which are the result of an extensive investigation into the schools athletic program by the FHSAA, which is the governing body for interscholastic athletics in Florida.
Here is a summary of Davis notification to the school.
1. The Miami High School baseball program violated provisions of the FHSAA Policy on Recruiting through the use of undue influence in an attempt to solicit or encourage the enrollment of student-athletes Jose Bellazetin and Fernando Alejos by assistant coach Rodolfo Camejo. Special inducements also were provided by offering housing to these students which were not made available to any other student who may apply to Miami High School. Additionally, no official transcript was received by Miami High School for Bellazetin subsequent to the 1995-96 school year, which is a violation of Bylaw 19.10.1 and Note 1 thereunder. It, therefore, is not certain that Bellazetin had been enrolled in any school since the 1995-96 school year. Both Bellazetin and Alejos, therefore, were ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at the school.
2. The Miami High School boys basketball program violated the FHSAA Policy on Recruiting when at least five players Udonis Haslem, Antonio Latimer, Steve Blake, Thaddeus Ambrose and Damion Fray received special inducement in the form of housing assistance from various Miami High School employees and supporters. All five players, therefore, were ineligible to participate in interscholastic athletics at the school.
3. The Miami High School boys soccer program violated Bylaw 19.4.1, the age rule, by permitting student Jose Amayo to participate on its team for the entire season even though he reached the age of 19 years 9 months during the season and, therefore, was ineligible to do so.
1. Miami High School is reprimanded for violation of Bylaws 12.7.2, 19.10.1 and note, and the Policy on Recruiting. The school must forfeit all contests in which any of the identified players participated during the 1997-98 school year.
2. Miami High School is fined $2,500 for violations of the Policy on Recruiting by its baseball and boys basketball programs, and an additional $50 for the participation of Amayo in the boys soccer program.
3. Miami High Schools baseball and boys basketball programs are placed on restrictive probation and served notice that the school is in a period of warning for one calendar year and additional violations during this period may result in the suspension of the schools membership in the Association. The restrictions imposed on the programs are as follows: (a) They are restricted from participation in the FHSAA State Series during the 1998-99 school year and not eligible for district, regional or state championship competition; and (b) They are restricted to participation in regular season games with FHSAA member schools only during the 1998-99 school year and not eligible for competition in invitational tournaments, whether in-state or out-of-state.
4. Miami High Schools baseball, boys basketball and boys soccer programs must forfeit all honors earned, and return all trophies and awards received, during the 1997-98 school year. This includes the Class 6A South I Regional and District 15 championships in baseball; the Class 6A State, South I Regional and District 15 championships in boys basketball; and the Class 6A District 15 championships in boys soccer. FHSAA records will denote these championships as having been vacated.
5. Student-athletes Jose Bellazetin, Fernando Alejos, Jose Amayo, Udonis Haslem, Antonio Latimer, Steve Blake, Thaddeus Ambrose and Damion Fray are declared permanently ineligible for interscholastic athletic competition at Miami High School. These student-athletes also are declared ineligible for interscholastic athletic competition at any FHSAA member school during the 1998-99 school year.
6. Miami High School must reimburse the FHSAA a total of $5,155.81 for the cost of its investigation into the schools athletic program.
Commissioner Davis' Statements
On the investigation: This investigation into alleged rules violations by the Miami High School athletic program officially began on May 26 after I determined that there was reason to begin such an official investigation.
I dispatched Deputy Commissioner Ron Allen to Miami to conduct the investigation. He spent two days there and interviewed a number of individuals including school administrators, student-athletes and other individuals associated with the schools athletic program. He filed his report with me on June 9 and, at my request, returned to Miami on July 16 and 17 for a supplemental investigation. I would like to commend Mr. Allen for his hard work in the conduct of this investigation. His report was thorough and well documented.
Needless to say, however, I was alarmed by the contents of his report. I provided a copy to Miami High School Principal Victor Lopez and asked him to respond to the report in writing, which he did. I also provided the school with the opportunity to appear before me to answer to the allegations in a hearing. This took place on July 30.
Based on the investigative report and Miami High Schools response, both in writing and in person during the hearing, I determined that Miami High School was indeed guilty of serious rules violations.
On the findings: This is one of the most, if not the most, blatant violation of FHSAA rules against recruiting that I have encountered in my seven years as Commissioner of this Association. These were not violations of omission, but of commission, and could only have been allowed to occur, or continue to occur, through a lack of institutional control as required by FHSAA Bylaws.
We had acts of undue influence being exerted on student-athletes in other schools, and in other countries. We also had at least seven student-athletes receiving special inducements to attend the school through the offering of housing assistance. As a result, at least five players on the schools state champion basketball team were ineligible to participate.
Its hard for me to believe that the administration was not aware that this was occurring.
On the penalties: Because of the nature and sheer volume of violations, suspension of the schools membership in the Association, which is the most severe penalty I could have imposed, was not out of the question. Believe me, I considered it.
In the end, however, I believed that it would be unjust to punish all the student-athletes and coaches at Miami High School for the actions of a few. Suspension would have meant the complete cessation of interscholastic athletic activity at the school in all sports, and that just would not have been fair.
Instead I have chosen to punish only those programs in which the rules violations were committed principally the boys basketball and baseball programs. Both of these programs directly benefited from the participation of the student-athletes which were recruited. Both won their district and regional championships. Both reached the Florida Finals. And, as we all know, the boys basketball team won the Class 6A state championship.
Because student-athletes who are found to have been recruited are ineligible, the school must forfeit all the games in which they participated this includes games in the FHSAA State Series. Therefore, I am requiring that the school also forfeit its district, regional and state championships won with the help of these student-athletes and return the trophies and medallions received to the Association office. Additionally, I am banning the boys basketball and baseball teams from participation in district, regional and state competition for the upcoming school year. I also am prohibiting them from participating in any invitational tournaments and out-of-state travel this year. They may play only regular season, dual-team games with other FHSAA member schools.
The $2,500 fine I am imposing for the recruiting violations is the maximum permissible. Both that and the reimbursement for the Associations expenses incurred in the investigation are standard in such cases.
Finally, I am declaring permanently ineligible at Miami High School all those students who were found to have been recruited by the school. They may never again dress in a Miami High School uniform and represent that school in interscholastic athletic competition. Additionally, I am declaring them ineligible at any FHSAA member school for the 1998-99 school year. They will not be permitted to participate in interscholastic athletics at any member school in any sport this year.
Pursuant to FHSAA Bylaw 22.3.1, Miami High School may appeal Davis findings and the resulting penalties. Any such appeal will be heard first by the FHSAA Section 4 Appeals Committee and subsequently, if necessary, by the FHSAA Board of Directors. The school has been requested to advise the parents or guardians of the identified student-athletes of their right to appeal through the school as well.
Director of Communications, FHSAA
(352) 372-9551 ext. 170