Thursday, May 14, 2009

NCHSAA strips N. Guilford of basketball title

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association stripped Northern Guilford of its state boys basketball championship Wednesday after local school officials determined the team had used two players who should not have attended the school.

Northern Guilford beat Gastonia Forestview 66-54 in the N.C. 3A championship game last March. NCHSAA associate executive director Rick Strunk told the Observer that the championship would now be "vacant."

Northern Guilford basketball coach Stan Kowalewski will not have his contract renewed.

Kowalewski told the Greensboro News & Record that an investigation into his team was “flawed from start to finish.” He said the lead attorney for the Guilford County Schools, Jill Wilson, “is obviously an amateur.”

He said school system officials will now have to face the wrath of Northern parents, particularly those whose boys played on the basketball team.

“This is not about me; this is about the kids,” Kowalewski said. “I can assure (the parents) will rise up and stand for their kids. This is not over.”

Guilford County Schools is investigating other Northern Guilford teams, including football.

In all, school system officials said Wednesday five Northern students playing on four athletics teams were determined ineligible based on the high school athletic association's domicile rule.

Some of those students played more than one sport at Northern. In addition to the two basketball players, investigators found that:

–The baseball team played with one ineligible student. The team, which was preparing to play in this week's first round of the state playoffs, forfeited all of its games.

–The wrestling team used two ineligible students. Both have forfeited their matches. Officials are determining if the team must forfeit overall matches in which those players won individual matches.

–The junior varsity softball team played an ineligible student and must forfeit all its games.

–A junior varsity cheerleader was found to be ineligible. Cheerleading is not a sanctioned sport.

The school was fined $1,250 by the association – $250 for each team's infraction.
Green, who declined to name the athletes because of privacy issues, said the students will finish the school year at Northern but will return to their correct school district next fall.

“It's a sad day for Northern and Guilford County,” Guilford County Supt. Mo Green said. ”But we're going to learn from this and we're going to get things right.”

Green said coaches and parents need to be better educated on the school system's domicile policy. He said he hopes to have public meetings that address that issue.

Kowalewski accused Wilson of trying to find fault where there was none to justify the cost of the investigation.

Wilson, Kowalewski said, “is obviously an amateur and that her underlings wanted to treat rumor as fact throughout the investigation.

“In recent days the techniques that (Wilson) used were absolutely despicable trying to frame me to look like I've done something wrong.”

Kowalewski accused Wilson and other investigators of trying to persuade Northern Guilford employees – including girls basketball coach Kim Furlough – to provide false testimony against Kowalewski.

Wilson denied the claim. “I've never even met Kim Furlough,“ she said.

Green said Northern had to vacate its basketball title because system officials believed it would have taken little effort for Northern principal Joe Yeager and Athletics Director Derrell Force to determine that the two players in question should not have been attending the school.

Wilson said she found “red flags” about students immediately after looking at student records. “Those flags would have come up just as quickly” for school officials, she said.

Yeager, Force and Louis Lawson, the school's head custodian, resigned from Northern on April 10 – the same day the school system announced its investigation.

Lawson's attorney said Lawson was asked to resign after school system officials said he was uncooperative with investigators.

Lawson's son Jacob Lawson is a star player for the basketball team. Lawson rescinded his resignation only to be fired later. Sources said Jacob Lawson is not one of the ineligible players.

-- The Associated Press