Hudl.com is a website designed to help connect players and coaches. College recruiters sometimes visit the site to see highlights of athletes they haven’t been able to see live, and many high school teams upload all their game footage to the site to speed up film review by their players remotely. It can also serve as a comprehensive storage facility to house team playbooks and schematic diagrams of game formations.
In fact, Hudl has become such a ubiquitous tool that many high schools now use the site for virtually all of its film work. One of those teams is South LaFourche High (Cut Off, La.), which recently fell to 4-4 in 2013 because of a 49-24 loss to state power Destrehan High (Destrehan, La.). That loss and score might not seem out of place, except for a unique detail that showed up in the Hudl backend logs for South LaFourche’s account. Evidently one of the Destrehan coaches spent 12 hours inside the South LaFourche account, where he or she was able to see every detail of game film and all playbooks logged by the school.
After learning of the apparent violation, South LaFourche officials contacted the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, which has opened an investigation into the Destrehan coaching staff. As the state governing body is quickly learning, it’s one thing to investigate an alleged violation when there is a standard protocol for punishing a violator. It's another thing entirely when the action itself has never happened before.
"We've never dealt with anything like this before," LHSAA executive director Kenny Henderson told The Shreveport Times. "We're doing an investigation and I can't tell you more than that because it's an ongoing investigation and, honestly, I just don’t know what to tell you."
For it's part, South LaFourche is seeking a forfeit of the Destrehan victory. It alleges that Destrehan not only had a competitive advantage, but that it’s advanced knowledge of the school’s football set up also endangered the South LaFourche squad.
Complicating matters is the LHSAA’s relationship with Hudl itself. The state governing body doesn’t officially sanction use of the site, but it does tacitly encourage schools to use it because Hudl sponsors the LHSAA, as it does many state sports organizations as part of its business development outreach.
The LHSAA is still determining how to approach the Destrehan coaching staff, but the St. Charles Parish School Board wasted little time in doling out punishment. On Wednesday night the district suspended all coaches involved in the incident "until further notice," though the district's Director of Public Information Stevie Crovetto refused to specify how many coaches would be suspended. She also refused to be drawn on how long the coaches might be suspended, instead falling back on the official "until further notice," terminology.
While it will be the LHSAA that will eventually rule on Destrehan’s alleged misdeeds, other Louisiana coaches have been quick to cast aspersions on the state powerhouse, some going as far as drawing connections with the New England Patriots filming a Rams practice walk through before the 2002 Super Bowl.
"It's real scary for us," North DeSoto football coach Scott Abernathy told the Times. "We send kids a lot of game-plan-specific presentations – drawings and specific ways we might line up. If one of our kids has watched 10 hours of film, something’s probably rotten in Denmark.
"Hudl is not sanctioned, but they encourage using it because it’s a sponsor. It's a unique situation. They need to somehow punish the child, but it's going back to the [Bill] Belichick thing. If people aren't going to be honest, they aren't going to be honest. There needs to be some type of fine or something that shows it’s not going to be acceptable. The LHSAA is consistent if they have a rule in place. There is nothing in place in this scenario."
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