School receives record fine, playoff ban for ineligible players

Cameron Smith

A Florida high school has been fined a whopping $57,000 following a lengthy investigation into widespread improprieties related to its wrestling and girls volleyball programs, with the wrestling team also receiving a lengthy postseason ban.

Oviedo wrestling's 2009-10 FHSAA state championship team

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the $57,000 fine that the Florida High School Athletic Association issued against Oviedo (Fla.) High is the largest single fine ever handed down to a Seminole County School District institution. The Oviedo wrestling program was banned from all district, regional and state competitions for three years while the school's volleyball team was put on probation, though no specific postseason sanctions for the volleyball program have yet been announced.

"This is by far the largest number of sanctions against one of our high schools," Seminole County executive director of high schools Walt Griffin told the Orlando Sentinel. "The main gist of this is that the school allowed students to enroll who were ineligible."

The Sentinel reported that the school district conducted a three-month investigation into alleged eligibility irregularities, finding five wrestlers and one volleyball player who were illegally allowed to enroll in the school despite being outside its catchment area. Some of those wrestlers also reportedly lived with assistant wrestling coaches to illicitly work around the state's residential restrictions. The entire Oviedo wrestling coaching staff was fired and head volleyball coach Chad Long was also dismissed from his position.

As startling as the $57,000 fine may seem -- particularly in the current economic climate -- that sum pales in comparison to the amount that was originally to be assessed against Oviedo. The standard fines for six cases of such eligibility violations, as well as connecting violations such as obstruction of evidence by coaches, would have totaled an even more crippling $280,000. The FHSAA said that those charges were decreased because of the cooperation and "corrective action" (i.e., the firing of the associated coaches) taken by the Seminole School District.

That corrective action also includes an agreement that the school not re-appoint athletic director Wes Allen or assistant athletic director John Howell, neither of whom were reportedly aware of any indiscretions on the part of either program before the investigation. According to the Sentinel, because of that lack of awareness, Allen is being allowed to continue in his position as Oviedo's head football coach.

The violations on the part of the Oviedo wrestling coaches taint a powerful program which had built a stirring state legacy under head wrestling coach J.D. Robbins. Oviedo has won five team state titles since 2004, when Robbins took control of the program. Those titles include a four-peat from 2004-2007 and, more recently, another state title in 2010. The team also notably won an incredible 84 consecutive dual meets between 2004 and 2008.

All of those marks will now be put under further inspection while the school tries to cope with a stunning fine and demoralizing sanctions against two of its most heralded athletic programs.

"The school got rid of all of the problem coaches," FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing told the Sentinel. "They took extraordinary measures to make sure this never happens again at Oviedo High School and I think that is the right message to send. They have good coaches at that school who play by the rules.

"But the actions we found from the coaches in wrestling and girls volleyball set a terrible example. It was win at all costs."

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