Documents obtained by The Daily Advertiser raise questions about the LHSAA’s decision to uphold the punishment handed down to John Curtis Christian during an August appeal.
In a copy of the LHSAA's official report, LHSAA investigator Joe Kleinpeter, who was assigned to the case, states he "could find no evidence to prove that" a John Curtis coach provided housing to former offensive lineman Willie Allen in order to keep him as an athlete at the school. The school said Allen, who lived with Curtis assistant coach Jerry Godfrey during his sophomore, junior and senior years, did so because of transportation issues.
The alleged infraction of the athletic recruiting rule was discovered when an unnamed source texted LHSAA Assistant Director B.J. Guzzardo a newspaper report describing the living arrangement. LHSAA then sent out an investigator, who provided a detailed report, and Executive Director Eddie Bonine handed down his ruling.
John Curtis appealed the decision — which would require the school to forfeit wins as well as pay a fine of $2,500 — at a hearing in August. On Aug. 31, the LHSAA's executive committee upheld Bonine's original ruling.
The LHSAA declined to comment because of the possibility of further litigation.
In Kleinpeter’s official report, he writes, “The big question. Article 2 of our bylaws. Yes, (offensive line coach Jerry) Godfrey does provide Willie with a home, clothing, food, etc. These are listed as inducement to attend and RETAIN a student for athletic purposes.
“It is obvious Willie did not receive any inducement to attend John Curtis Christian school the first three semesters other than work-study. He also sat out his one year of ineligibility for being out of zone. When he moved in with the Godfrey family he was an eligible student-athlete at the school.”
Kleinpeter establishes that, according to the letter of the LHSAA Handbook, the Godfreys' decision to take Allen in is a violation of the rules and also that Allen was an eligible student-athlete at Curtis at the time.
However, Kleinpeter said he could find no evidence that the Godfreys took in Allen to retain his athletic services for the school.
“RETAIN. While it means to keep, my understand (is) neither Willie nor his mother ever had any thought or desire to transfer Willie to any other school…while the perception may appear to be that the move into the Godfrey home was for athletic purposes, I could find no evidence to prove that to be provable. It is, however in line with the creed and mission of a Christian school to help the whole child, and all aspects of their life.”
Kleinpeter gives his opinion on the case, citing a previous case as example: “This is a tough one, glad I don’t have to make the decision. I understand the merits of either decision. I can only say (that) this child’s future is bright and after interviewing the mother and knowing the fractured family configuration I am sure this young man only turned out (to be) the good person (that he) is because of the facts in this case.”
Kleinpeter continued, “Five years ago or more the best volleyball player at Houma Christian lived with the volleyball coach and was eligible. In fact the volleyball coach took the volleyball job at Riverside Academy and (the athletic) transferred to Riverside with the coach and was ruled eligible.”
Allen’s written testimony submitted in the appeal stated during his freshman year at the school he would ride a street car to South Carrollton, then would ride a bus from Kenner to John Curtis every day of his first year at the school.
The documents also shed light on some of the financial trouble the LHSAA is facing, as well as their preparation for a new athletic association in the state. Here are some other findings:
► In a report to the LHSAA Executive Committee, Bonine addressed the possibility of a new athletic association.
Bonine filled the committee in on how the new organization will become a member of the NFHS and the risks of the LHSAA not being the voting member and becoming the smaller of the two.
The LHSAA will remain the voting member of the state to the NFHS as long as they have more students than the other association.
► LHSAA pulls assistant director posting amid financial concerns
The LHSAA had plans for hiring another assistant director, but had to pull the posting and inform applicants that the association did not have the funds to fill the position after preparing the budget for the current fiscal year.
► Other financial numbers:
The LHSAA budgeted $4,340,300 in revenue for the current fiscal year (July 1, 2016, to Aug. 30, 2017) and $4,336,933 in expenses. The budget only gives the LHSAA $3,367 of net income on fiscal the year.
As of Aug. 30, 2016, the LHSAA had an ordinary income of $140,941, of which they had to subtract $99,866 in arbitration hearing costs. The net income for the LHSAA as of Aug. 30 was $49,571.
The LHSAA has a payroll of $1,094,000 for the current fiscal year.
The LHSAA budgeted $722,500 in sponsorships for the current fiscal year. At an executive committee meeting during the summer, Mitch Smalls reported the LHSAA could stand to lose up to $400,000 of their sponsorship money as the result of other financial factors in the state. It is unclear if the budget for this fiscal year reflects the projected loss of sponsorship. As of Aug. 30, the LHSAA had only collected $10,000 of its budgeted $722,500 in sponsorship dollars.