NU gets win after Franklin accused of improper recruiting
FRESNO – Local sports authorities announced Tuesday a string of punishments for Franklin high school’s football program which is accused of improperly recruiting student athletes from American Samoa.
The school will have to forfeit 19 victories for the past three seasons and will be banned from competing in the playoffs for the next four years, a regional commissioner of the California Interscholastic Federation said. That includes an Oct. 5 game with Nevada Union in which the Miners lost 45-21. The forfeit gives NU a 2-4 overall record.
The Miners also played Franklin last season, but that result will not change because the Miners won that game outright, 45-27.
NU coach Dave Humphers was not available for comment Tuesday night.
The penalties for Franklin are the final step in a six-month probe alleging that a Samoa-based relative of an assistant football coach paid the students’ parents to send their sons from the remote South Pacific territory to arid Stockton to play sports.
Fourteen students and their families flew to California on tickets purchased by the coach’s mother and stayed in motels paid for by Franklin High School personnel, authorities said.
The coaches then helped the parents get fake utility bills to establish their sons’ residency, and the new recruits advanced the Yellowjackets’ standing within the league, officials said.
Emmy Zack, a spokeswoman for the statewide federation, said the probe into the Stockton school was its most extensive investigation in recent years. Officials believe more than $60,000 was spent on players and their families.
“This was a calculated scheme,” said Pete Saco, a commissioner for the federation office governing high school sports from Grass Valley to Merced. “Cheating won’t be tolerated.”
Saco said administrators would monitor the school’s program until fall 2014, and three American Samoan players on this year’s team also would be banned from competing in sports through the end of the academic year.
Stockton Unified School District Superintendent Jack McLaughlin said Tuesday the charges were “completely unfounded” and that the district is exploring whether to take the case to court.
While not criminal, athletic recruiting at the high school level is not permitted by high school sports governing bodies in United States, along with exercising “undue influence” to coerce young students to switch schools, sports authorities said.
“We haven’t had our day in court,” McLaughlin said. “This is about defending our future, past and present students, and we’re guilty until proven innocent under this system.”
Two weeks ago, parents of two young Samoan recruits sued the federation office for negligence and invasion of privacy.
The claim filed in the U.S. Territory’s High Court also names the local sports authorities’ lawyer and consultant, who questioned them last summer when they visited the South Pacific island. The federation says it launched the probe after a high school football coach in the capital city of Pago Pago called Saco in March.
Franklin High School can appeal the decision to the local federation office, Saco said.
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