10 a.m. update
Tournament organizer Alexander Getta told media outlets Friday evening the Gulfshore Invitational was officially canceled because not enough teams agreed to participate.
From this morning’s The News-Press
A last ditch effort Friday by one of the organizers of the troubled Gulfshore Invitational high school basketball tournament appears to have done little more than add further confusion for the 22 teams originally committed to the event.
The number of schools convinced by Naples businessman Alexander Getta’s early morning email stating the tournament was indeed going to be played — sent less than 24 hours after a previous message Thursday announced its cancellation — is unclear. What is certain is that the tournament will need to find a new home.
The Community School of Naples, the scheduled tournament host, received an email from Getta at 3 p.m. Friday that read in part:
“We do not wish for any negative light to be directed at CSN and therefor (sic), the board has decided not to move forward with the fieldhouse facility lease,” Getta wrote.
That email arrived just two hours before the final rental contract deadline set by the school in order to allow enough time for the tournament to be properly sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association. It had been scheduled for Dec. 27-31.
Prior to its move to a national format this year, spearheaded by Getta’s company, Getta Sports, the Gulfshore had been played at Golden Gate High School since 2004.
Golden Gate athletic director Pete Seitz said Friday he hadn’t been contacted about hosting the tournament.
“I don’t know anything about it,” he said. “When it was here, it was a school-sponsored event.”
That’s just the latest in a flurry of emails that have left the future of the Gulfshore in doubt.
Getta’s Friday morning email, which some teams’ coaches said they did not receive, claimed that a major sponsor, which he did not name, had learned about the tournament’s financial quandary and stepped in “so this amazing event can continue.”
That message was a complete reversal of Thursday’s email, which also wasn’t received by all of the committed teams. It said that the tournament’s funding, guaranteed for more than a year, “has not presented itself” and therefore, the tournament was canceled.
Neither Getta nor Gulfshore associate director Mike Horn returned multiple messages Friday. However, emails obtained by The News-Press show a disagreement between the two over the tournament’s viability.
An email sent by Getta to Horn at 6:14 a.m. Friday, minutes after his email announcing the tournament was still on and written in all capital letters, indicates it was Horn who sent Thursday’s cancellation email.
“DO NOT SEND OUT ANY MORE OF THE CANCELLATION LETTERS AS THEY HAVE ALL RECIEVED THE BELOW EMAIL,” Getta wrote. “AGAIN, DO NOT, OTHERWISE THE HASSEL WILL NOT BE DIRECTED AT ME.”
Getta also advised Horn what to do with the money the tournament had already received.
“DO NOT RETURN ANY OF THE CLIENTS CHECKS. THEY ARE MADE OUT TO GETTA CAPITAL AND ARE NOT YOUR PROPERTY,” Getta wrote. “…AGAIN IF YOU OR YOUR DAD DECIDE TO DO SO, I WILL NOT BE RECIVING THAT HASSLE.”
Horn also sent an email Friday to 11 of the Gulfshore teams’ coaches providing Getta’s contact information and saying if they wished to proceed with the tournament, they needed to go through him.
“I have separated myself from the operation,” Horn wrote. “I deeply apologize for the inconvenience.”
FINANCIAL HIT FOR SCHOOLS
The Gulfshore tournament’s contract sent to prospective teams called for a $400 entry fee payable before the start of the first game. It also promised the tournament would be responsible for a team’s accommodation expenses for up to eight rooms, meal plan expenses and a travel expense “credit” up to $10,000.
Donnie Wilkie, the vice president and tournament director of the City of Palms Classic, said the word “credit” should have raised a red flag for schools considering committing to the Gulfshore.
“Reimbursement is not the way to go there,” said Wilkie, whose tournament pays for visiting teams’ flights up front and sends them the tickets. “This is the first time I’ve ever heard of any tournament using a reimbursement plan of any kind.”
At least three of the schools who had committed to the Gulfshore — Charlotte (N.C.) Olympic, Louisville (Ky.) Trinity and Newark (N.J.) St. Benedict’s Prep — had already purchased airline tickets and could be out from $8,100 (Olympic) to $11,000 (St. Benedict’s).
“We’re a low budget Catholic school without a lot of money,” St. Benedict’s coach Mark Taylor said. “It’s going to hurt us a lot if we don’t get the money back for our tickets.”
Taylor said the best case scenario would be for the Gulfshore to take place in some form but that he doesn’t have much confidence it’s going to happen.
“The whole thing is just disappointing,” he said. “They said they would refund the (transportation) money, but I’m not sure what to believe.”
Even if there is a tournament, schools like St. Bendict’s won’t likely be made financially whole. Getta’s email Friday mentioning the unnamed sponsor also revealed smaller funding for visiting teams, including travel reimbursement of just $5,000.
It also said the tournament is unable to provide full accommodation expenses, but can contribute $1,000, and won’t supply ground transportation, but has secured a group rate for a travel van for $899.
“I truly hope this last financial effort will make it possible for you to continue to take part,” Getta wrote. “We completely understand if this amount will not allow your program to take part, and will continue to work with you to assist in that transition.”
Montverde basketball coach Kevin Boyle, whose team was scheduled to play at the Gulfshore following next week’s appearance in the City of Palms Classic, said Thursday evening he was working to see if his Orlando-area school could host a tournament for the teams still interested in traveling to Florida.
On Friday, Boyle said that option appeared less likely.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to do that,” he said. “We’re concerned with doing things the right way. You can’t just throw together a tournament. You need concessions, security, insurance.”
Boyle said his school may be able to have four teams play two games.
“But it won’t be a tournament,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of those schools will be on their own.”