By all indications, a Florida high school football coach was just trying to do the right thing when he allowed a homeless player to live with him. Now that coach and his school are facing fines that could reach into the thousands of dollars -- and potential forfeiture of victories -- because of the player's housing arrangements.
According to OrlandoSentinel.com, St. Cloud (Fla.) High School coach Bill Buldini sat out his team's 20-17 loss to Edgewater last Friday after the school self-reported a violation of Florida High School Athletic Association code aimed at curbing the recruiting of players. The rule states that no school employee or representative of the school's athletic department can provide or promise free or reduced-cost housing for a potential athlete in their program.
The FHSAA rule may be well meaning, but school officials insist that Buldini did not violate any district rules. The Osceola County School District reinstated Buldini to both his coaching duties and day job as a social studies teacher at the school on Monday. That's where things stand now, and they may stay that way for awhile. According to WFTV.com, the FHSAA has offered no indication of how long its investigation into Buldini will last.
While no one has openly questioned Buldini's motivation for taking in the player, the Osceola County School District said that its regulations call for the district to work with homeless and dispossessed students directly rather than rely on its employees.
In the meantime, the St. Cloud community has rallied behind the embattled coach, who is paid only a $3,850 annual stipend for serving as the Bulldogs head coach. The FHSAA has already made it clear Buldini may have to forfeit some of that stipend if he is found guilty of violating its rules.
"I don't really see much wrong with that," St. Cloud student Melanie Hernandez told WFTV. "Maybe they're just thinking too hard into it because if he has nowhere else to go, someone needs to give him help."
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Hernandez's points seems to encompass the prevailing logic at the moment, though the FHSAA may not agree. In the meantime, the student who stayed with Buldini -- his name is not being released because of privacy issues -- is being held out of all St. Cloud practices and games.
Between the player's temporary ineligibility and Buldini's uncertain future, there should be plenty of motivation for the FHSAA to conclude its investigation swiftly. Until then St. Cloud will play on with questions about its future, and what it has already achieved.
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- Osceola County School District