Calling the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s decision to ban the Southport basketball team from the 2019-20 tournament for undue influence as “draconian punishment” that is “arbitrary, unfair and illogical,” the Perry Township school system has filed an appeal with the IHSAA to reinstate the basketball team.
Perry Township assistant superintendent Robert Bohannon and Southport basketball coach Eric Brand came out strongly against the IHSAA’s decision on Tuesday, speaking for the first time publicly about the tournament ban since the IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox made his statement on Nov. 18 that Southport’s violation of undue influence was “as egregious” as he has seen.
The IHSAA issued a release Tuesday that it has granted an expedited appeal hearing, which will take place on Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. at the IHSAA offices.
At issue was the alleged recruitment of a 6-6 freshman basketball player from the Congo, referred to by Brand and Bohannon as “N.P.L”, citing student-privacy laws. The IHSAA cited Brand’s payment of a check for the student’s cost reimbursement for his F-1 student visa as a violation of the IHSAA’s undue influence by-law. Cox accepted Southport’s decision to suspend Brand for two games, but called it “woefully short” of expectations of a member school and added the tournament ban, in addition to a one-year probation, on Nov. 18.
But Southport believes the IHSAA either overlooked or misrepresented the circumstances around Brand’s involvement. Brand said he already knew “N.P.L” would be ineligible to play on the varsity team by writing the check.
“I honestly did not know what I was doing was wrong,” Brand said. “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.”
Cox said Tuesday it does not matter what level of basketball the student was projected to play.
“It doesn’t matter (if the kid is the varsity or not),” Cox said. “It’s still a violation of undue influence whether the young man plays on varsity or junior varsity. He’s still a scholar-athlete who received a benefit that no other student would be entitled to.”