Deer Valley’s decision to play two football players before they were ruled eligible to play wound up hurting all of the teams at Deer Valley.
The executive board of the Arizona Interscholastic Association unanimously agreed with the AIA’s recommendation to place Deer Valley’s sports programs on probation during Monday’s monthly executive board meeting, keeping Deer Valley’s 22 teams from participating in the playoffs during the entire 2013-14 school year. The decision to place all of the programs at one school on probation because of a decision administrators agreed to make is likely unprecedented in the AIA board’s history.
If it choses to, Deer Valley can appeal Monday’s ruling and take the corrective action needed to likely reverse or lessen the punishment.
“The importance of the integrity of the bylaws was a stake, and when you are looking at that, it was a school decision (to allow the players to play),” said the AIA’s associate executive director Chuck Schmidt as to why every Deer Valley team will suffer the consequences. “This was not a coach of a particular school. This was an athletic director and principal of the school, no different than I would think you would look at any college institution.”
The two football players that transferred to Deer Valley were initially ruled ineligible to play during their first hardship hearing after they transferred from Centennial High.
The players appealed that ruling to the AIA’s executive board, which eventually gave the players the go-ahead to play, because there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove that the players were recruited. But instead of waiting four days for the executive board's decision on the players, Deer Valley’s coaching staff, athletic director, John Allen, and principal, Barbara Dobbs, gave the players permission to play.
“The school files a hardship, (and) until that hardship is resolved through the (hardship) committee and or the executive board, that student is ineligible,” Schmidt said.
Allen, Dobbs, Deer Valley’s head football coach Eric Bolus, and Deer Valley’s district athletic director Bill Gahn attended Monday’s meeting.
“It was a decision (to play the players) that we made from our hearts, not necessarily our minds,” Dobbs said. “We are owning up to it.”
Deer Valley’s administrators agreed to let the players play during a game Deer Valley lost on Aug. 30 despite being advised not to do so by Gahn, a former AIA executive board member.
“We didn’t do it to anger the AIA,” Dobbs said. “It was based on what we got from the whole football community.”
During Monday’s meeting in Phoenix, an AIA board member admonished Deer Valley’s staff for seeking the advice of booster club members, which were part of the “whole football community.”
Monday’s ruling by the AIA’s board has no bearing on the current investigation of the two Deer Valley football players that transferred from Centennial.
The AIA still is trying to determine if those two players were recruited by two former Centennial coaches who joined Deer Valley’s coaching staff but were eventually dismissed during the players’ investigation. The investigation started after Centennial High accused Deer Valley of recruiting the two players.
Deer Valley’s games will still count in the power rankings and for seeding Deer Valley opponents that might reach the playoffs. But when the football rankings are released, beginning in October, Deer Valley won’t appear in the rankings, said Brian Bolitho, the AIA’s director of business media.