AHSAA places Spanish Fort High School on one year probation and issues fines amid soccer controversy

Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 6:08 PM CDT
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SPANISH FORT, Ala. (WALA) - According to letters between the AHSAA and Spanish Fort High School the controversy surrounds Anthony DeFelippo who moved from Colorado to Spanish Fort in March. The letter says that Anthony’s mother Kerry registered his three sisters in July of last year. All of whom were student-athletes.

At the time she stated all immediate family members including parents and siblings moved to Spanish Fort together and lived together. At that time Anthony had not lived with his family for more than two years. So when he moved to Spanish Fort in March, Athletic Director Chase Smith reached out to AHSAA soccer director Marvin Chou to confirm Anthony’s eligibility and was told yes he could play. After concerns were raised by two other AHSAA member schools, the AHSAA reversed its decision and ruled him ineligible after learning that his sisters had been playing since the start of the school year.

AHSAA rules say a family must make a bona fide move for students to be eligible meaning all principal members of the family must move together to reside in the new place of residence. But in an appeal made by Superintendent Eddie Tyler, he stated that principal members of the family is not clearly defined and that the family had not known Anthony was going to have to move back home due to medical reasons. The AHSAA is standing by its decision saying because the sisters played in school-sponsored sports Spanish Fort would have to forfeit any games the siblings played in and won.

That’s not all, the AHSAA ordering the DeFelippo children to sit out the same number of games they played in this season next season. And as mentioned, the AHSAA fined Spanish Fort high school $250 for allowing the siblings to play plus another $150 because one of the siblings is a senior and can’t sit out next year. The AHSAA has also placed Spanish Fort on probation for one year.

We’ve reached out the AHSAA for clarification but they have declined to comment.

Late Friday afternoon, the following statement was released:

Statement on behalf of the Parents of the Spanish Fort Girls Varsity Soccer Team:

On behalf of our daughters, we want to thank the Spanish Fort High School Coaches, Administration, Baldwin County Board of Education, and Community Members who have supported our student athletes while we navigate this unprecedented and unmerited removal of the Spanish Fort Girls Varsity Soccer Team from the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s State Tournament.  The AHSAA, an alleged non-profit that is not state affiliated, asserts in their mission statement they:

“serve[] member schools through interscholastic competition by enhancing student learning, sportsmanship, safety and lifelong values. With integrity as its foundation…”

There is no integrity in the AHSAA’s actions.  Here, what the AHSAA has done, is target the SFHS Girl’s team in retaliation to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the brother of two of our players.  The alleged investigation, started only after the AHSAA was served with the lawsuit and demanded SFHS self-report any alleged violations it found in the paperwork of this family under the threat of sanctions.  The “violation” that-- according to the AHSAA-- merits removal of the team from the playoffs and lingering sanctions on the student athletes at issue—their belief that the checking of a box indicating that all immediate family members moved to the home was “invalid” because the brother of these athletes, who resided in Colorado for over two years, did not move with the rest of the family from Pennsylvania.  The rules propagated by the AHSAA do not serve as a shield to protect student athletes, but as a sword to support the AHSAA’s “interpretation” of the rules they themselves create.  The alleged violated rule at issue, does not ask whether “all immediate family members” moved, but rather whether all “principal members of the family [  ] reside in the new place of residence.”  With all the growth in Baldwin County, the idea that any of our schools can be found to violate this rule if one of the siblings chooses not to move with their family—say to finish their senior year of high school by living with another relative—that all remaining student athletes of that family are automatically ineligible, does not enhance a student’s learning or lifelong values.  There is no integrity in that. Moreover, it is egregious and a miscarriage of justice that when SFHS questioned why the AHSAA would choose to interpret their rules in such a manner, given that the rules do not expressly state an intent to treat this situation as a violation, they chose to strong-arm SFHS and BCBE by stating “the system would face significant fines should [it] refuse to comply with their decisions.”  This is who we are allowing to govern our student athletes.  A system designed to intimidate and deny any due process rights.  The Team supports and stands by these student athletes and their family, who have been unjustly treated by the AHSAA.

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