AHSAA tells their side of the story

Published 11:44 pm Monday, January 7, 2019

After weeks of local and national outcry, including a spotlight on ESPN this weekend, the Alabama High School Athletic Association fired back Monday in a statement on its ineligibility ruling for Charles Henderson senior Maori Davenport.

Davenport, a Rutgers recruit was suspended in November for violating the Amateur Rule after she received $857.20 from Team USA Basketball for playing with the U18 team this summer.

Following the suspension, Charles Henderson High School, led by principal Dr. Brock Kelley, appealed the suspension to both the AHSAA District 2 Council and the Central Board of Control with no avail.

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Since the suspension was upheld on December 18, the local and national support continues to grow for the senior and future Scarlet Knight.

Rutgers head coach C. Vivian Stringer, along with the WNBA, ESPN broadcaster Jay Bilas and many others have come to the aid of Davenport.

During the telecast of Kentucky vs. Alababama basketball game, Bilas addressed the Davenport situation and expressed his displeasure.

“They need to rescend this. This is a travesty and it is wrong,” Bilas said. “Maori Davenport did absolutely nothing wrong and she should be allowed to play.”

On Monday, AHSAA Central Board of Control President Johnny Hardin and the AHSAA attempted to clear up any possible misconceptions about the suspension of Davenport.

“The student’s mother is a certified AHSAA Basketball Coach; therefore, she is required to uphold current AHSAA bylaws and rules, including the Amateur Rule quoted above.,” said AHSAA Central Board of Control President Johnny Hardin said in the statement. “Furthermore, the Head Girls’ Basketball Coach at CHHS is a former member of the AHSAA Central Board of Control; thus, she should not only appreciate the importance of knowing and following the AHSAA bylaws and eligibility rules but also understand how imperative it is to consistently uphold the same rules.”

Team USA took complete responsibility in the matter in December. Hardin blamed the situation on lack of administration oversight.

“USA Basketball never called Charles Henderson High School or AHSAA to ask if payment for lost wages violated AHSAA rules until November which was three months after payment was made and accepted by the student,” Hardin said. “This was not a clerical error but a complete lack of administrative oversight on the part of USA Basketball, thus possibly rendering multiple student-athletes ineligible as most states have an Amateur Rule.”

The backlash the AHSAA has received since the suspension has been centered around AHSAA Executive Director Steve Savarese reversing the decision of the Central Board of Control. According the statement, Savarese does not have the authority to reverse the ruling.

“Steve Savarese, as AHSAA Executive Director, made the eligibility ruling based upon the plain language of the Amateur Rule. As Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change a rule,” Hardin said. “Rather, as Executive Director, his job is to apply the rules as written. To be clear, this ruling was affirmed by the Central Board of Control and as Executive Director, Mr. Savarese does not have the authority to change or reverse a ruling made by the Central Board.”

Hardin continued to say that the fault was not on the player, but rather on the adults.

“Most eligibility violations are the result of adults failing to follow the rules,” Hardon said. “Here, the student’s mother as a certified AHSAA Coach should know the rules; the School’s Principal should know the rules, the Head Basketball Coach, as not only a Coach but also as a former Central Board member, should know the rules.”

Hardon closed the statement my saying “Lastly, misstated facts and placing Mr. Savarese’s email on social media has led to Mr. Savarese and the AHSAA staff receiving threatening, irresponsible, and vulgar communications. We, as the Central Board of Control, stand by the staff of the AHSAA and thank them for their unwavering support of the AHSAA mission, educational athletics, as well as the AHSAA Constitution and Bylaws.”

Charles Henderson principal Kelly declined to comment. To read the full statement from Harden visit www.troymessenger.com.