The Kentucky High School Athletic Association issued severe penalties to Cordia High School on Monday for violations by its boys basketball team over the past three years.
After a yearlong investigation, the KHSAA said the Perry County school in eastern Kentucky violated rules regarding eligibility, enrollment requirements, transfer for U.S. citizens and foreign-exchange students, financial aid, recruitment, and requirements for coaching.
Penalties for Cordia include the suspension of its boys basketball team for the 2014-15 season, as well as a fine of $25,980.
"This series of events may well represent the most wanton and blatant disregard for Association rules in its 97-year history," KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said in a news release. "There is apparently no person within the school or school system willing to actively and aggressively control and manage the athletic department. Therefore, students have been allowed an unrestricted privilege of participation without compliance with applicable and appropriate rules."
Cordia was also in violation of using at least one ineligible player in all games last season, including the quarterfinals of the All "A" Classic State Tournament against St. Mary.
The Vikings lost that game 63-47, with Cordia using two players who had just been reinstated by a Franklin County circuit judge who granted a temporary restraining order to keep the KHSAA from enforcing an order that withheld their eligibility.
Greg Overstreet, the head coach for St. Mary, said the punishment Cordia received was fair.
"They did a lot that was just a blatant disregard for the rules," Overstreet said. "There is no way they shouldn't have known about a lot of those rules."
The two players Cordia used who had been reinstated were at least 6-foot-7, which may have played a role in the 16-point win.
Playing against a team with ineligible players ended St. Mary's run at an All "A" state championship, but Overstreet said what the Cordia coaching staff - headed by former UK player Rodrick Rhodes - did was in good heart.
"(Rhodes) was taking kids out of bad situations a lot of times. One was from Harlem, another from New Jersey," Overstreet said. "He took them away from ugly lives. I talked to one of their starting guards after the game and asked him where he was going to college. He said he was hoping to go to a prep school but he was still recovering from a drive-by shooting. He showed me his leg with bullet holes in it.
"What they were doing wasn't all that bad because they were helping kids, but it's something that needed to have been done at a prep school or an Oak Hill Academy-type place," Overstreet added.
Rhodes has been Cordia's coach for three years, and has helped build the team into a strong region contender with transfers coming from inside and outside the state. Cordia finished the 2013-14 season with a 23-9 record.
In addition to the suspension and fine, Cordia's whole athletic program will be on probation through the 2018-19 season. The school will have 30 days to appeal the KHSAA's decision.
Overstreet said he feels most sorry for the players.
"I don't know if they knew what they were doing wasn't right. They may have been blinded to the fact," he said. "You have to feel sorry for the kids who didn't have a chance to play because of those kids."