Coolidge accusing Hamilton football coach Steve Belles of recruiting star athlete J.T. Gray

Coolidge accusing Hamilton football coach Steve Belles of recruiting star athlete J.T. Gray

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Coolidge accusing Hamilton football coach Steve Belles of recruiting star athlete J.T. Gray

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Chandler Hamilton football coach Steve Belles on Wednesday denied that he recruited Coolidge star defensive back/running back J.T. Gray, who was in the process of transferring to the Division I football powerhouse.

Arizona’s top high school football prospects – 2014: Where is Gray ranked?

Coolidge, however, felt so strongly that a recruiting violation occurred that it reported it to the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

It stems from the inaugural Rivals Camp Series Presented by Under Armour for top underclassmen in the West that was held on March 9 at Hamilton.

Gray, a highly recruited 6-foot-1, 198-pound safety who has drawn interest from Alabama, attended the camp that Hamilton coaches helped run.

The Casa Grande Dispatch reported that Coolidge coach Cayle Ferguson saw Belles approach Gray and “the two disappeared together for a few moments before returning.”

“I’m just trying to be as quiet as I can,” Belles said Wednesday from his college alma mater, Notre Dame, where he is attending a camp this week. “I’m upset about the accusation made of myself and the program. They’re false.

“It’s not something we’d have to do. Nor would I jeopardize the program for one kid any day. Everything is false. There is no truth to anything.”

Belles said that he knows that Gray withdrew from Coolidge and that he talked to Athletic Director Dick Baniszewski.

“The kid came to us,” Belles said. “It was his choice. That’s the whole deal. We’re not going to jeopardize a whole class for any kid. We just don’t do that. We’re being falsely accused.”

Hamilton Principal Fred DePrez said that Chandler Unified School District Athletic Director Marcus Williams is handling the investigation from Hamilton’s end.

“CUSD is currently investigating the allegations brought to our attention,” Williams said in a statement. “In addition, we are cooperating with the AIA and Coolidge representatives to assist them with their investigation. At this point in time, CUSD does not have any further information in regards to this situation.”

AIA Associate Executive Director Chuck Schmidt said that the two school districts are in communication over the matter. If the districts can’t come to a conclusion, the AIA would intervene and have an outside investigator look into it.

Schmidt said, on paper, it appears a violation could have occurred, pointing to the AIA recruiting bylaw 15.12.4.14:

Transfers to a school with which a non-school team is affiliated or with which an instructor is affiliated. Despite compliance with the other provisions of AIA Bylaws, a student who attends, participates or was eligible to participate for a school, and then transfers to another school is ineligible for one calendar year under any of the following circumstances:

– The student transfers from a public (district & charter), or private school within one

calendar year after:

– Participating in non-school athletics (e.g. AAU, American Legion, club team, or other

non-school teams) on a team affiliated with the school to which the student transfers,

AND/OR

– Receiving athletic or activities instruction from a person affiliated with the school to

which the student transfers.

– EXCEPTION: The eligibility of a private or non-member charter school student who

transfers to a public or private school at which the student has previously been a

participant in a school sport or activity is not affected by this rule.

– The student transfers from a home school within one calendar year after:

– Participating in non-school athletics (e.g. AAU, American Legion, club team, or other

non-school teams) on a team affiliated with the school to which the student transfers,

AND/OR

– Receiving athletic or activities instruction from a person affiliated with the school to

which the student transfers.

– EXCEPTION: The eligibility of a home school student who transfers to a public or

private school at which the student has previously been a participant in a school sport

or activity or was eligible to participate in a school sport or activity is not affected by

this rule.

Schmidt identified FAQ No. 7 relating to the Coolidge/Hamilton situation.

It states:

Q. Does receiving athletic instruction or attending a camp or clinic at which a person affiliated with the school to which a student transfers place the student’s eligibility in jeopardy?

A. YES. Further, any time a student and a coach attend the same camp, instruction is considered to have taken place.

“You have to look at the spirit of the bylaw and the rationale of it,” Schmidt said. “Is the kid here? I don’t think there’s a dispute right now on whether the kid was there and that Coach Belles was there. The question is, ‘Should that be applied?’ ‘’

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Coolidge accusing Hamilton football coach Steve Belles of recruiting star athlete J.T. Gray
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