Indiana high school basketball program defends giving African player cash, fights tourney ban

Photo: Photo: Kyle Neddenriep/IndyStar

An Indiana high school is fighting back against the state association’s decision to ban the team from the state playoffs because its coach provided an impermissable cash benefit to a player from Africa who allegedly feared for his safety from immigration agents.

RELATED: Southport appealing ‘unfair’ boys basketball tournament ban, calls punishment ‘illogical’

As reported by Indiana CBS affiliate WTTV, Southport High School (Perry Township, Ind.) filed a nearly 20-page brief meant to justify why boys basketball coach Eric Brand signed a $5,000 check for a student athlete from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“I honestly did not know what I was doing was wrong,” Brand told our colleagues at the Indianapolis Star. “I was transparent with my superiors the whole time. I felt like if I raised the money and the fact that this young man could not this year play varsity basketball, I still don’t understand the punishment — especially for the rest of our young men, who did not know about this or have anything to do with it.”

The crux of Southport’s defense is that the player in question was never going to play on the school’s varsity team because he was in the country on an F1 visa. And while the player in question is not practicing or participating with the basketball team, he is still attending the school and living with a teacher and his wife.

Here’s the case put forward by Southport:

“simply put, this is not a story of basketball recruiting. It is the story of a caring community banding together to support a person in crisis. The decision of the commissioner to banish Southport High School from the tournament — when Southport obtained absolutely no competitive advantage from the mistakes made — is arbitrary, unfair, illogical, and this aspect of punishment should be reversed.”

None of those surrounding details are considered germane to the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s decision over whether to allow the team to compete in the postseason or not.

“This is one of the worst things that can happen in amateur sports is when a coach through a booster club pays the tuition of a student to attend his school for the purposes of playing basketball,” IHSA Commissioner Bobby Cox told WTTV.

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