Providence was slapped with a hefty fine and its basketball team docked 21 wins after the Florida High School Athletic Association found three violations within its athletic department that occurred in 2016.
One basketball player and one junior varsity volleyball player were found to have been ineligible to compete during the 2015-16 school year for two different reasons — academic and financial aid. The school was also fined for allowing usage of its facilities in baseball, basketball and volleyball without a fully executed, written agreement between Providence and the parties.
Those fines total a whopping $117,500, although just $11,750 is due now. The remainder would only become due if the program is involved in another athletic violation before June 30, 2018, the date that its administrative probation ends.
Don Barfield, Providence’s head of school, told the Times-Union that the program “absolutely and categorically denied any wrongdoing.” He said that Providence had a very strong case, but elected not to appeal the FHSAA decision to avoid the lengthy and costly judicial process.
“Every single action we’ve taken, we feel like we did not circumvent any rules, we felt the documentation was there for it,” said Barfield, who was the founding head of school in 1997 and just returned to lead the program last school year.
“The prior administration did not drop the ball on this. They did it by the books.”
Providence basketball coach Jim Martin, whose team went 21-9 during the 2015-16 season, deferred questions to Barfield. The Stallions went 25-6 last season and finished as the Class 4A state runner-up.
In its report, the FHSAA said it received anonymous correspondence about possible violations in the school’s athletic program during the 2015-16 year. Upon looking in to the allegations, the FHSAA found that a boys basketball athlete and a junior varsity volleyball player were allowed to participate while ineligible.
Cost for each of the 42 games that those athletes played in — at $2,500 apiece — $105,000.
The basketball player was initially denied entrance into Providence because of an issue with an absent geometry grade and a missing Spanish course that prevented him from enrolling. When the school received his updated transcripts with the information, it admitted him.
The volleyball athlete in question was freshman whose tuition was partially paid for by a foundation in the amount of $1,642.12. It became an athletic issue when the player tried out and made the junior varsity team and played in 11 matches. The FHSAA said that the student should have paid $2,224.76. Both the basketball and volleyball player were deemed to have received impermissible benefits under FHSAA’s Policy 36.
The school was also cited for allowing non-school teams in baseball, basketball and volleyball to use its facilities. Coaches in those sports conducted camps at the school, Barfield said, and agreements were in place with each, but it wasn’t a signed contract, rather a verbal one.