FHSAA sanctions Ponte Vedra High's lacrosse program over rules violation

The school's lacrosse program was the subject of a February I-TEAM investigation

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter, Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects, Eric Wallace - Senior Producer, I-TEAM

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - The organization that oversees high school athletics in Florida has ruled Ponte Vedra High School's lacrosse program broke the rules, a violation will result in a season forfeiture, a fine and a permanent mark on the school's record.

The I-TEAM first reported Feb. 20 that the Florida High School Athletic Association was actively looking into allegations that PVHS's lacrosse program had committed violations involving the non-school teams, unsportsmanlike conduct and recruiting infractions. The St. Johns County School District had cleared the program after conducting its own investigation.

After a full review, which began back in January, FHSAA determined most of the concerns at stake were beyond the authority of the association and more aligned with the day-to-day operations of the school district.

However, FHSAA did find an infraction of Policy 37.2.2.7 during the 2016-17 school year where a student-athlete was "permitted to stay with a representative of the school's athletic interests" in Ponte Vedra Beach. 

READ: FHSAA sanction letter to Ponte Vedra High School

According to documents previously obtained by the I-TEAM, the student had been attending St. Augustine High School, and applied to attend one of the academic academies at PVHS. The student began attending the school in the 2016-2017 school year, and staying with family friends in Ponte Vedra Beach during the week.

The school stated the family friends had been coaches of the school's girls' lacrosse team, but resigned before the student began living with them. FHSAA still ruled this to be an impermissible benefit, which means an ineligible player was playing on the school's team.

Because of that violation, FHSAA has ordered the following actions: 

  • PVHS must forfeit the boys' lacrosse contests from the 2016-17 season.
  • PVHS faces a $2,500 fine. However, $2,250 is being held in abeyance until June 30, 2019, provided no other violations of FHSAA Policy 37 occur. Currently, the school is only on the hook for $250.
  • PVHS is officially reprimanded resulting in an official letter of censure becoming a part of the school's permanent record with FHSAA.

Head coach Tom West is not mentioned in the FHSAA sanction letter.

The school had a right to appeal the FHSAA's decision, but Friday afternoon, the school district told the I-TEAM it plans to let the decision stand, releasing the following statement:

Although we do not agree with the FHSAA’s interpretation of this matter, we certainly respect their decision as well as their authority as the governing body for inter-scholastic athletics. It is our plan to move forward from this, accept the sanctions and continue to look to improve our athletic programs across the district.” 

- Christina Langston, Chief of Community Relations, St. Johns County School District

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