UPDATE: AIA places Sabino HS girls basketball on probation

Games forfeited after recruiting violations

TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The Arizona Interscholastic Association has placed the Sabino High School girls basketball team on probation effective immediately, according to a statement released on Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Here is the full AIA statement:

This removes Sabino from the 3A postseason. Holbrook High School will get a bye into the championship game on Saturday, Feb. 23 at Gila River Arena in Glendale, where it will await the winner of the Winslow vs. Page semifinal on Friday, Feb. 22. That semifinal has been moved back to 6 p.m. from 2:30 p.m. As per AIA precedent, the association will not advance another team into a vacated slot.

"The Executive Board felt the move was necessary at this time to ensure those teams that abide by fair play get a chance to go for a state title. We will be looking at this incident regarding player ineligibility and team forfeitures to create procedures if it happens again in the future,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines, in the same statement.

TUSD also released a statement on the AIA probation:

Today, 2/19/19, the AIA Executive Board deliberated to decide sanctions for Sabino High School Girls' Basketball Team in regards to the prior contact violation submitted earlier this year, which resulted in forfeiture of games. Tucson Unified School District and Sabino High School administration addressed the Board to outline steps taken by the school and district in regards to this matter. After a lengthy deliberation, the AIA Executive Board voted unanimously to place the Sabino's Girls Basketball Program on probation for the remainder of the season, which also resulted in Sabino’s removal from the State Basketball Tournament. Herman House, Director of Interscholastics for TUSD, recused himself as a board member in order to address the steps taken by the district and the school.

Tucson Unified School District disagrees with the AIA decision. On 1/18/19 Tucson Unified self-reported the violation to the AIA, and we believe the school and district properly addressed this matter that led to the violation. Our heart goes out to the students and parents in the Sabino Girls’ Basketball Program. We will continue to work diligently to resolve any reoccurrence of these violations which greatly affect our student-athletes through additional training programs.

The Sabino High School girls basketball team received news on Tuesday, Jan. 29, that they would have to forfeit 10 games this season. However, in a Tucson Unified School District news release dated Wednesday, Jan. 30, the district said the team forfeited nine games.

The team had initially been investigated by the district and that case was closed. Then the Arizona Interscholastic Association was notified by Sabino administration that a rule had been broken. The school also shared information with the district, that there was evidence that coaches had broken the prior contact rule, which was confirmed by the Jan. 30 news release. AIA officials said the team was playing with an ineligible player and that is why the AIA decided to have the team forfeit the games.

According to an statement from the TUSD Director of Interscholastics, Herman House, a report was sent to the AIA on Wednesday, Jan. 16 with allegations of violations to AIA Bylaws: Prior Contact and Recruiting for the Sabino High School Girls’ Basketball team, involving three student athletes.

TUSD said in the Jan. 30 release that allegations regarding two of the players were unsubstantiated.

The release, in its entirety, is below:

"The Tucson Unified School District administration is conducting an internal investigation regarding the recruitment allegation involving the Sabino High School Girls Basketball team.

"Effective immediately, Sabino High School Girls’ Basketball team has forfeited nine games due to the violation of prior contact with one of the players. Even with the forfeitures, Sabino Girls’ basketball team remains ranked #1 in the 3A conference and as a result still have a very good chance at post-season play.

"In addition, it was determined that the allegations regarding two other Sabino basketball players were unsubstantiated.

“On February 19, 2019, the AIA staff will submit to the AIA Executive Board their recommendations regarding Sabino’s violation.”

House’s Jan. 16 statement follows:

“As the Director of Interscholastic for Tucson Unified School District, I was personally involved in vetting two of the three mentioned in the complaint; the third student-athlete started at Sabino as a freshman and is not subjected to the prior contact rule. TUSD will continue to look into this matter and will send our findings to the AIA upon completion; however, I am pleased with the vetting process of these three student-athletes conducted by the Sabino Administration and am confident that the AIA will find that the school acted in accordance with AIA bylaws.”

The AIA released the following statement on the Sabino girls basketball team:

“The forfeiture of games for the Sabino girls basketball team is related to the previous investigation. After TUSD had concluded its investigation, new evidence regarding prior contact was discovered by the Sabino administration and shared with TUSD and the Arizona Interscholastic Association. The penalty in this situation is forfeiture of the games played with the ineligible player. Sabino remains eligible for the postseason. Since the team has already played at least the minimum number of games to qualify, it remains eligible. The ranking formula is a power rated system. It cannot determine who would have won the game if that ineligible player did not participate. So the team has played 14 power ranking games according to the system. The current power ranking for the team is based off the four other games, in which Sabino is 4-0, and it keeps the team at No 1. In the rankings based off those four games. There is no current AIA action against the school or program.”

However, this is not the first time Sabino High School has had controversy over its athletics program - in August 2018, the Sabino baseball team had to forfeit its state title, due to AIA Bylaw violations.

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