Frank Martin Is Not a 'Scapegoat': New Times Busted Him Cold at Miami High

This weekend marked the homecoming of Frank Martin, a Miami native who's turned the Kansas State Wildcats into a Top 10 basketball team. If you read the Herald's glowing piece on Martin though, you may have stumbled over a couple quick sentences: Martin "was fired" as coach of Miami High, the paper writes, but "denied any wrongdoing."

As Martin spins himself in the Kansas press as a "scapegoat," it's worth revisiting what actually happened: New Times busted him cold for assembling a 1998 championship team by illegally recruiting and listing fake addresses for his stars Udonis Haslem and Steve Blake.

You cheated, Frank Martin. Deal with it.

Martin would obviously prefer you didn't, but you can still read Robert Andrew Powell's investigation into Martin's Miami High team here.

Martin took over Miami High in 1995 and quickly turned it into a powerhouse, winning three state titles from 1996-98.

The week before his final title game, though, Powell's devastating story dropped. Here's the gist of what he turned up:

A New Times investigation has revealed that as many as one-third of Miami High's players are of dubious eligibility. Glaring violations of FHSAA rules abound.

According to student records maintained by Dade County Public Schools, five of the fifteen players on the current Miami High varsity roster live with either a school employee, a coach, or a team booster. All three of those arrangements violate the FHSAA's policy on recruiting. Some of those students don't actually live at their given addresses, despite information to the contrary on the school district's computer system, preferring instead to live with their families many miles outside the school's attendance boundaries. The remaining ten players traveled a variety of circuitous paths to the Asylum, Miami High's home gym. At least two players transferred to participate in the school's education magnet program. Six players transferred via the county's Minority to Majority (M&M) program, which allows black students to transfer to predominately Hispanic Miami High, located on Flagler Street in Little Havana. One moved in with his grandmother.

To get an idea just how far Miami High will go to bring talented players into the fold, consider the case of three marquee talents: Haslem, who transferred last year; forward Antonio Latimer, a Puerto Rican who played at the Florida Air Academy in Melbourne; and Steven Blake, one of the best guards in Dade County and a leader on the Killian team that reached last season's state semifinals.

According to school district records, when the current season began Latimer and Haslem supposedly shared an efficiency apartment with a man who describes himself as an unpaid assistant coach for the team. Blake and his father, again according to district records, supposedly lived with a booster named Joyce Lund.

What was Martin's response when Powell confronted him with his findings? Before his school started a desperate scramble to change their players' addresses, he pleaded ignorance -- and not very convincingly:

Miami High coach Frank Martin admits that none of the boys in question actually lives at these addresses. "I'll shoot straight with you," he says. "I have no idea how those addresses got on [the school district computer] system."

Martin team went on to claim his third title the week after the story came out -- but it was a short-lived victory.

Sparked by the story, the Florida High School Activities Association started an investigation into the team, eventually leveling a fine against the school and vacating its entire 1998 season.

Martin was fired soon fired as well.

That's not how his friends want you to remember the saga, though. In a feature this weekend in the Topeka Capital-Journal, his mentor and ex-Miami High coach Shakey Rodriguez is still trying to play down New Times' investigation.

"Frank had nothing to do with it," Rodriguez said. "He got railroaded on a lot of things. I'm talking to you frankly about how this thing went down."

Another friend put it more succinctly: "That was bulls--."

Actually, what's bullshit is dominating a state basketball scene by breaking every rule in the book. Martin deserved to be fired from Miami High -- and college fans deserve to know what really happened in 1998.

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