On the bright side, Lake Wales High School’s boys’ basketball coach led his team to a winning record on the court. On the down side, he was willing to do almost anything — including recruiting students from other countries to get there. At least that’s what a report filed by the school to the Florida High School Athletic Association is claiming.
Randy Lee, the school’s coach since 2012, resigned last week after threats of termination for insubordination. In their report, school officials say Lee was recruiting foreign players and allowing them to live in “deplorable” conditions — a violation of FHSAA rules.
“We’re a public school, we are subject to the FHSAA, we play all of the other district schools, we don’t recruit ball players,” the school’s attorney, Robin Gibson said.
The report says that four “very tall” players arrived on the high school’s campus in February. Three were from Cameroon and one was from Serbia. The players averaged 6’7’’ in height and were all between 17-18 years old.
After investigating the boys, the school learned they were living in poor conditions set up by Lee and sometimes left without food.
As Bay News 9 reports:
“It had been represented to us and everybody else that he was an exchange student staying with a host family in Lakeland,” Gibson said.
The school’s investigation showed that one student was actually living with Coach Lee, a clear violation of FHSAA rules and the team may suffer because of it.
“I would suspect that first they’re gonna look at is whether the school should forfeit all of its basketball games. Certainly the ones that the Serbian player played in,” Gibson said.
The players told the school they had been attending “Fiath Based Christian Academy North” outside of Atlanta before attending Lake Wales. It is unclear if that school closed last year or never existed in the first place.
According to Fox News in Tampa Bay, the boys were left without a place to go, and many of them were living in vans without food, water or clean clothes.
When the dean of the school went to investigate the boy's living conditions, she found them to be "deplorable."
The report says Lee was not clear with the school on the players’ living conditions and found some of them to be living with the 21-year-old girlfriend of one of the assistant basketball coaches.
The students will remain enrolled and in good academic standing at Lake Wales while an investigation takes place, but will not be allowed to participate in athletics. School leaders say the students have been placed with host families and are being well taken care of.
“We’ll do everything we can for them,” Gibson said of the foreign students. “But we can’t violate the rules of the [FHSAA.]”