Officials: More than 40 Booker T. Washington student-athletes ineligible
BY ANDREA EGER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
8/15/10 at 9:31 AM
Documents: Read the release from TPS regarding the investigation.
From Mike Strain's Blog: "BTW students penalized because administrators chose not to follow rules."
Problems with student-athlete eligibility at Booker T. Washington High School erupted into a full-blown scandal Wednesday afternoon as school district officials announced that the number of students found to be ineligible has reached more than 40 total and even more game forfeitures are necessary.
Superintendent Keith Ballard announced a host of school leadership changes - including the reassignment of Principal Micheal Johnson - at a closed-door, after-school meeting with the high school’s faculty.
Just last week, TPS administrators imposed sanctions against the Booker T. Washington athletics department after an internal investigation found that six student athletes were ineligible because of transfer and recruiting violations. Five school officials - four from the athletic department, as well as Principal Micheal Johnson - were reprimanded.
On Wednesday, TPS reported that an additional 37 student athletes were ineligible because of sub-par grades. Sports include softball, volleyball, cross country and football.
The newly reported violations will result in the forfeiture of the varsity Washington vs. Miami football game - which used 16 ineligible players, including seven starters.
Also affected are four varsity volleyball matches, including the 2009 Regional Volleyball Championship. A cross country runner also was ruled academically ineligible.
Johnson “requested ... an immediate administrative transfer from Booker T. Washington to another site in the district,” according to school officials.
Johnson will take earned vacation time “until the district can determine where his experience and abilities will provide the greatest benefit to students,” a press release said.
An interim principal will be announced within a week, officials said.
Former BTW principal James Furch has been tapped to lead the school on a short-term basis.
Other changes include the appointment of Mike Mims, a former BTW and University of Oklahoma assistant basketball coach, as assistant principal over athletics.
Area Superintendent of High Schools Kevin Burr said in a press statement that TPS administrators are cognizant of the “ripple effect” such violations have on other OSSAA member schools.
“We are aware of our responsibilities to our honorable association with the OSSAA,” Burr said. “Allowing ineligible athletes to participate put BTW at a competitive advantage to other member schools that chose to participate by the guidelines we all agreed to. We have a responsibility to athletes of competing schools as well as our own.”
A written report about the TPS internal investigation, which was released Oct. 27, stated that although OSSAA regulations required high schools to begin academic eligibility checks on student athletes on Sept. 14th, Booker T. Washington did not begin until Oct. 12 - some four weeks late.
“Witnesses have testified that they alerted the principal and site ADs (athletic directors) to this in September (around the time that grade eligibility checks were supposed to have begun) but that Principal Micheal Johnson was reluctant to begin - as were site ADs (Antwain Jimmerson and Ioder Fisher),” the report said.
“Fisher is quoted to have said, ‘Why should we be taking eligibility when no one else (in TPS) is?’ Johnson is quoted as saying, ‘I’ll take the heat on this one, because PowerSchool isn’t up and running correctly.’?”
Administrators reported that PowerSchool, the district’s new student data management system was operational, but even if it hadn’t been, weekly grade checks could have been accomplished via e-mail with teachers.
“There is simply no good reason for weekly grade checks to have not been made,” the report states.
The two athletic directors, who voluntarily resigned athletic duties, were replaced with BTW baseball coaches John Potocnik and Jason Doctor.
The investigation began in mid-October after TPS athletic director Stephanie Spring received a tip that an assistant football coach was regularly driving a player to school from outside the district. Spring and high schools superintendent Kevin Burr found that assistant coach Scott Gilkey drove the player - described in the report as a longtime family friend - and the coach’s daughter 90 miles round-trip to Booker T. Washington.
The softball team has already forfeited 13 games. The football team’s forfeits stripped the Hornets of a playoff berth they previously had clinched.
World staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.
Booker T. Washington High School. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World