Krop High Scandal: FHSAA Honcho Roger Dearing Responds to the Haters

Florida High School Athletic Association executive director Roger Dearing has taken a lot of heat for the disqualification of the Krop High basketball team and ongoing investigation into the school's entire athletic department. He sent us an op-ed letter, which we've posted below, in which he attempts to make it clear that, no, he's not on a jihad against Miami-Dade Public Schools, international students, and apple pie.

Though he's too diplomatic to say it, we're not: Those lashing out at Dearing and this publication for bringing myriad recruiting violations to his attention might want to preserve their last modicum of dignity. It's apparent the local high school basketball system is marred by cheating. When a larger story we're now investigating is published, it will be even more clear.

Without further ado:

In light of the recent events concerning the boys' basketball team at Dr. Michael M. Krop High School, I believe it is important a spokesperson for the Florida High School Athletic Association attempt to set the record straight in terms of the Association's role in determining student-athlete eligibility. Dr. Krop's students, parents and school community members deserve an explanation of the real issues involved. In addition, the other seven hundred and eighty-seven member schools in Florida deserve a reminder that the Association upholds a standard that calls for all school teams to play hard, play fair and play by the established rules.

The rules violations at Dr. Krop High School and their subsequent consequences had nothing to do with punishing a student for his status as an international student-athlete. There are currently nearly one thousand such young people competing within the State. With circumstances similar to those of the Dr. Krop student, these young men and women come from more than one hundred countries, without their parent(s) or guardian(s). They come in order to receive a quality education and to avail themselves of the opportunities provided through interscholastic competition. With the assistances of their school's athletic department personnel, they have all completed the Association's necessary paperwork. That paperwork documents they are of proper age, have the required academic grade point average, are placed in an academic track at the school they attend, are not recruited to any one particular school, are not receiving any financial or other impermissible benefit, and are not a graduate of the school system from which they came.

These are the same standards all two hundred eighty thousand student-athletes within the state must meet and they were implemented to aid in leveling the playing field.

The action taken by the FHSAA is not about criticizing the Miami-Dade County School System. Miami-Dade has a reputation for incredible achievement, both athletically and academically. In fact, I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Alberto Carvalho, School Superintendent, while visiting Miami since this incident occurred; and I am pleased to report that we share the same expectation for all Miami-Dade schools, and that is to reflect the district's tradition for excellence in sports programs. We agree this situation is an isolated incident and is not representative of the District's reputation for praiseworthy athletic performance.

This is not a matter of discrimination against immigrant students. While it is a fact that school personnel are not permitted to ask students any questions about their immigrant status in order for them to obtain an education, they are required to ask questions in order for students to participate in interscholastic athletics. The courts in the United States, including the Supreme Court, have repeatedly ruled that obtaining an education is a fundamental property right. On the other hand, they have also affirmed that participation in interscholastic activities is a privilege with associated qualifying standards. This critical issue is discussed with administrators and athletic directors every two years at a mandatory compliance seminar, conducted by the FHSAA, for the purpose of avoiding situations such as the one that arose at Dr. Krop.

What the issue does speak to is the fact that approximately two hundred eighty thousand student-athletes in the State abide by the fundamental requirements of eligibility that include grade point average, age limits, and residency. Those who devote time and energy to following the rules have the right to expect that every other student-athlete with whom they compete is adhering to the same requirements for participation. These rules do not separate student-athletics: they unite them under the umbrella of fairness.

This issue is about the coaches, athletic director and school administrators who are responsible for ensuring that all bylaws and policies of the association are met. Their athletes rely on them. It is they, the adults, who are charged with establishing an atmosphere in which honesty, integrity, and fair play thrive. It is they, those closest to the students who need their guidance and example, who must not abandon honorable principles.

It is a fundamental belief of the FHSAA that one of the most important roles of interscholastic athletic programs is its ability to build character. Through their participation in interscholastic athletics, students are provided opportunities to demonstrate honesty, integrity, respect, caring, cooperation, trustworthiness, leadership, tolerance and personal responsibility. These fundamental values enable participants to realize and fulfill their potential as students, athletes, individuals and citizens.

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Gus Garcia-Roberts