EHS girls basketball program to receive sanctions on possible rule violation

Published 6:55 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A letter from TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress to Elizabethton High School Principal David Wright states the Lady Cyclones basketball program will be sanctioned following the current season after an incident that possibly violated Article II, Section 17 of the TSSAA Bylaws.

The bylaw in question is the “Recruiting Rule,” which states that “Athletic recruiting is the use of influence on a student or the parents or guardians of a student, by any person(s) directly or indirectly associated with the school, to secure or retain a student for athletic purposes.”

According to the TSSAA letter, the following self-imposed sanctions will be placed on the Lady Cyclones program following the current season:

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• Two year probation, which will result in a  $1,000 fine — $500 per year on probation.

• A reduction of the number of off-season spring practice days to three during the first year of probation.

• A reduction of practice days allowed in the summer to 15 with no team vs. team competition allowed during the first year of probation.

• The program will be allowed one pre-season scrimmage and will not be allowed to participate in any jamborees or Hall of Champions games during the first year of probation.

These are the sanctions outside of the self-imposed ones:

• All communication or information to elementary or junior high students must come from the Elizabethton City School’s administration explaining the total educational program. It must contain a variety of topics to students of all interests during the first year of probation.

• The student athlete who was the subject of the rule violation shall be ineligible to participate in basketball at Elizabethton High School for one year should she decided to attend. The ineligibility will extend to all levels.

“During the period of probation, the Elizabethton High School girl’s basketball program may continue to participate in regular and post season contests,” Bernard said in the letter. “If there are any other violations, TSSAA will be forced to consider further disciplinary actions.”

According to the letter, the incident that possibly violated the “Recruiting Rule” started on Jan. 9 during the Elizabethton and Daniel Boone basketball games.

During the games, the grandmother of a player from outside the Elizabethton district approached Lady Cyclones assistant coach Russ Lyon and expressed interest in moving her granddaughter into the Elizabethton District.

“They were impressed with the program and really wanted to see the team play,” Childress said in the letter, referencing information submitted by school officials during the investigation. “She also stated it would keep (player) with some of her local travel basketball family.”

The grandmother also expressed interest in meeting Lady Cyclones Head Coach Len Dugger. According to the letter, the two were introduced to Dugger and nothing more than “nice to meet you” and “thanks for coming” was said.

Lyon later contacted the player and told her that she was “more than welcome to come and shoot,” during a workout at the school the next day with Lyon’s younger group, according to the letter from the TSSAA.

The morning of Jan. 10, Lyon contacted Dugger in a text and informed him that he would be using the gym with his younger group and that the player from outside the district may come and shoot. According to the letter, Dugger said he didn’t see a problem and that the gym was available for Lyon to use with his younger group.

Around 3 p.m. that same day, the freshman group began shooting around and working out, and Lyon told the player in question that she could “keep shooting around since most of the younger girls know and play travel basketball with her,” the letter said.

During the practice, around 3:30 p.m., Elizabethton High School Athletic Director Mike Wilson saw that the player was getting ready to participate in a drill and immediately stopped the drill and asked, “Who is this girl and where is she from?”

Lyon explained the situation to Wilson. Wilson informed Lyon that this was not allowed. Dugger later said that Wilson told him they could not have anyone on the floor gym floor, even just shooting around, while they practiced.

According to the letter, Lyon told the player and her grandmother that he did not know it was not allowed and apologized.

“They both left the gym a little later and have not been back to any practice or to shoot at the high school,” EHS officials are cited saying in the letter.