Those official statistics all changed Thursday, when the Florida High School Athletic Association forced the recently re-crowned Class 6A state champion to vacate all 22 of the team’s regular season victories and pay a $16,000 fine in connection with three players, who the FHSAA claims were ineligible to compete and received illegal benefits.
Now a new report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel claims that the three student athletes in question — each of whom was ruled ineligible until January 2018 — were all connected to a baseball organizer named Mike Sagaro, the leader of the MVP Banditos baseball program in Southern Florida. Sagaro himself has come forward to explain the discrepancies between the FHSAA’s findings and what he insists actually took place:
— Sagaro said the player in question comes from a bad family situation and has lived with his family for the past four years. … Sagaro said while he has had temporary custody of the player since 2013, the boy’s family signed over full custody in court in Broward County in May.
— Sagaro said the father of the second player asked for help setting up an account, which he could not do because he did not have a credit card. Sagaro said the registration fee of $36, which was flagged as an impermissible benefit in the state report, was the only charge he paid on the account.
— Sagaro’s American Express card also was listed on a third player’s account, but he claims that was an error.
If true, Sagaro’s claims paint an intriguing alternative explanation for the Mavericks alleged violations. Whether they’re compelling enough to have the FHSAA back off its claims remains to be seen, but it does make one thing clear: Neither Archbishop McCarthy or others with connections to the program are going to take the penalties handed over lying down.