Galion High School’s athletic department has been placed on probation by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) for violating association regulations regarding recruiting.
According to a press release issued Tuesday by the Galion City School District, the district self-reported the violations of Bylaw 4-9 to the OHSAA in early June. The probation period will be in effect immediately until Aug. 1, 2017.
The Galion football program, according to the district press release, violated four sections of Bylaw 4-9. Following is a summary of the regulations that were violated along with details of the violations:
1. Bylaw 4-9-3 #6: “Providing athletic camp brochures that advertise athletic camps available to general population is permissible as long as no direct mailing to specific individuals is conducted.” A Galion coach gave a brochure to a non-enrolled student’s father.
2. Bylaw 4-9-4 #1: “Using direct mailings or electronic communication to send information to a specific individual by name.” A Galion coach sent a team text to players asking them to welcome a player who just moved to town. The player was specifically named before officially enrolling at Galion High School.
3. Bylaw 4-9-4 #6: “Providing favors or inducements, such as T-shirts or caps, to prospective student-athletes or their parents.” A Galion coach allowed a non-enrolled player to borrow a football helmet to be used at a football camp.
4. Bylaw 4-9-6: “All questions relating to enrollment, attendance or athletic program shall be handled through the school administration or admissions office.” A Galion coach did report initial contact by a parent in regards to enrollment, but a coach did not adequately handle additional phone calls and/or texts.
According to the press release, as a result of the violations, head football coach Chris Hawkins will be suspended from participating in any and all coaching activity for the first two games of the 2015 season. The release also stated that Hawkins will exercise his right to appeal the suspension. Hawkins met with an attorney on Tuesday to discuss the appeals process.
“I have not, nor would I ever recruit a kid to play at Galion,” Hawkins said. “Success attracts attention, and we have had some success in recent years. Our success has led some parents to looking into sending their kids to Galion. But we’re not out receruiting kids.”
Hawkins said the athlete in question did not participate in any offseason activities at Galion until after he was enrolled in the district, which occurred last week. He said the young man’s parents expressed an interest in having their son attend school at Galion and that Hawkins and a school administrator met with them to discuss the possibility.
“I laid everything out with the family, what our expectations are academically and athletically,” Hawkins said. “I told them, as I have told other families that have approached us about coming here, that if this is something they want to do, then get enrolled. If it isn’t, then don’t enroll.”
Hawkins said he did loan a Galion football helmet to a young man who was attending football camp outside of Ohio because he was told the youngster’s school would not let him use one of theirs.
“I didn’t let him use it in an attempt to recruit him to come to Galion,” Hawkins said. “I told him he could use it, but we would need it back by the end of the week to send out for refurbishing. We’ve let kids borrow helmets in the past and we’ve borrowed helmets from other schools for our kids. We had a situation where we didn’t have a helmet big enough to fit one of our guys and we borrowed from another school. There is nothing wrong with helping a kid play the game.”
In regard to sending brochures to students and contacting students via text message, Hawkins again said he and his program did nothing wrong.
“The brochure has nothing to do with Galion football,” he said. “It was information about a service in our area that helps kids get recruited to college. I took a picture of the brochure and sent it to several people who were looking for information. It had nothing to do with recruiting kids to come to Galion. And I have never texted a student who was not enrolled at Galion.”
Hawkins, who is president of the North Central Ohio Football Coaches Association, said he is appealing the OHSAA ruling because he believes it’s a question of his integrity and the integrity of the Galion football program.
“If I did something wrong, either intentionally or unintentionally, I’ll accept the punishment,” he said. “But after looking at the bylaws, I don’t think I did anything wrong. I go by the book.”
Additionally, the athlete involved in the violations has been suspended from participation in all scrimmages and preseason games for the 2015 season. He has also been suspended from participation in the first regular season game of 2015.
“I feel sorry for the young man,” Hawkins said. “He doesn’t deserve this. He did nothing wrong.”
The Galion City School District has been fined $750 and will be required to submit an action plan to the OHSAA regarding the education of coaches about Bylaw 4-9. The action plan will be made public once the plan has been submitted to and approved by the OHSAA.
Superintendent Mark Stefanik declined comment about the ruling, but the press release included a statement from Galion Athletic Director Kyle Baughn.
“We will fully comply with all the requirements of the probation as outlined by the OHSAA,” Baughn said. “The Galion City School District is committed to compliance with OHSAA rules and regulations, and we will make sure that all our coaches at every level are educated and proficient with the rules and regulations.”
Andrew Carter can be reached at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048. Connect with him on Twitter @ACGalionSports.