Three Florida high school athletes have been ruled ineligible for a year after their transfers were deemed to be the result of recruiting.
According to the Fort Myers News-Press, the Florida High School Athletic Association has handed down several sanctions against Gateway High School. The FHSAA suspended Gateway boys basketball coach Quran Pettyjohn for the first six weeks of the 2021-22 season, while the three players have been deemed ineligible from May 25, 2021 through May 25, 2022. Gateway was also fined $2,500, placed on administrative probation and must schedule an FHSAA Eligibility & Compliance workshop.
"Gateway High School will abide by the sanctions but plans to appeal the students ineligibility to play," Lee County spokesman Rob Spicker said to the News-Press.
The sanctions began in February, when three varsity basketball players filed paperwork to transfer from Lehigh to Gateway. After complaints from the Lehigh principal and athletic director, Gateway self-reported a potential improper contact violation by Pettyjohn.
Pettyjohn coached the three transferring students on the AAU Lehigh Blue Devils basketball team, and was an assistant coach at Lehigh before taking over the Gateway program in May 2020.
Greg Coleman, Lehigh’s basketball coach and athletic director, reportedly confronted Pettyjohn in December 2020 about giving rides to Lehigh players after practices and games. Pettyjohn responded by saying, “He has left players without supervision after games and practices on several occasions. Players have called me several times to give them a ride home, when they were left without rides. After practice and games, Coleman leaves without concern for the players’ safety and supervision.”
School officials began corresponding about the incident, with Lehigh principal Jackie Corey reaching out to Gateway to try to resolve the situation.
“This is a perfect example of recruiting and is a violation of the FHSAA,” Corey wrote in an email this spring. "Hopefully, we can resolve this together. If not, this will need to be taken up with the FHSAA. This is disappointing and truly unfortunate."
"Gateway High School is the newest high school in Lee County and we are now the number (No. 1) selected school in the district," Gateway principal Neketa Watson responded. "We do not have to recruit kids to come to Gateway."
Gateway, which has a $98 million campus and a capacity of 2,000 students, is starting varsity sports in 2021-22 after being a freshman program last season.