School Mitigates Potentially Devastating FHSAA Penalties has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

Copyright 2014 Sarasota Herald-Tribune Co.
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Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida)
CHRIS ANDERSON chris.anderson@heraldtribune

Manatee High's athletic department has been fined and placed on probation by the state for policy violations within the baseball program, though the penalties could have been substantially more severe and devastating to the school district.

The Florida High School Activities Association has determined that Manatee's program, led by former coach Dwayne Strong, violated seven of its policies, and it fined the school $13,300.

However, because Manatee self-reported the violations in a letter to the FHSAA on Oct. 24 as a result of a separate school district investigation, and also took several corrective measures, the fine was greatly reduced, according to an FHSAA report.

During a time of serious financial shortfalls that the district is attempting to remedy, Manatee High could have been fined a minimum of $332,500 for the infractions.

"It is what they found and we've got to go with that," Manatee High Principal Don Sauer said. "I don't believe we will appeal. We're ready to put this past us. We have made some changes. We have a new athletic director and a new baseball coach now, and it's time to move on.

"This school has been around a long time and this has been one of the first times there have been questions as to what we have done. We're going to look at it and learn from it."

The FHSAA said 19 students violated policy by participating in camps, clinics, or both, and the penalty is a minimum of $2,500 per infraction.

The governing body of high school sports in Florida "assesses penalties in accordance with the number of occurrences the violation is committed."

Since Manatee self-reported the violations the fines were reduced to only $100 per student -- instead of the minimum $2,500 -- for a total of $13,300.

"I don't believe they are out to break a school," Sauer said. "They are not out there to take every penny we have. They are there to make sure the playing field is equal for all students."

'Pay for play' system

The sum of $6,650 will be held in abeyance for a year, provided no further infractions occur. Sauer said the fine will be paid from money from the school, most likely the athletic department.

In addition to the fine, the athletic program has been placed on administrative probation until June 1, 2015 and the baseball program will be on probation until June 1, 2016.

The FHSAA report said the violations had "occurred consistently for several years."

Manatee reached the state baseball semifinals in 2010.

FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing -- former Manatee County School Superintendent -- was out of the office on Friday, his secretary said.

Strong, who resigned from Manatee on Nov. 1, did not comment Friday when reached by phone.

The violations largely stem from a baseball training facility in Bradenton owned by Strong called The Sandlot@5-Tools and how it was used.

The FHSAA determined violations occurred because practices were held at 5-Tools during the off-season; off-season participation was conducted which required students to participate as a condition of playing on the MHS team; summer camp participation was also required to play on the team and an auxiliary organization was allowed to fund camps and clinics during the school year.

The FSHAA also determined three more violations occurred because a student was "afforded an impermissible benefit by having his fees funded by MHS prior to the student having established residence at the school."

Manatee County School District investigator Troy Pumphrey began an inquiry into the baseball program based on a letter of allegations he received on Sept. 30.

In addition to operating a "pay for play" system with his business, the district investigation said Strong coached last season without proper state certification and paid a former Manatee High player $80 to write four papers for him in an attempt to obtain state certification.

'A tough two years'

Current Manatee High football coach Joe Kinnan and former assistant superintendent Bob Gagnon were reprimanded by the district for "failure to maintain honesty" during the investigation.

In an administrative complaint, Kinnan was notified by the district Dec. 6 that it recommended he be suspended for 10 days and demoted from his position at the school as business manager. Also the school's athletic director, Kinnan resigned from that position on the same day.

Kinnan has called the district's investigation "false, misleading and inaccurate," and has filed for an administrative hearing with the state to fight the district's decision, though a date has yet to be set.

Kinnan still plans to coach football. He is one of the most revered coaches in the state, having won five state titles.

Gagnon was also suspended for 10 days without pay as part of the baseball investigation, pending a return to the district.

Gagnon was suspended without pay and termination of his job was recommended by the district on Oct. 14 for his role in the Rod Frazier case.

Frazier, a former football coach and parent liaison, has been charged with seven counts of battery against former Manatee High students and employees. He has pleaded not guilty.

Gagnon has been charged with failure to report child abuse and his trial is set for June 16. He has pleaded not guilty.

Gagnon's attorney, Richard Reinhart, has said his client did nothing wrong regarding the baseball situation at Manatee High.

Sauer, the Manatee High principal, acknowledged it has been "a tough two years."

"But what people don't focus on is the most important thing and that's we have teachers and students still teaching and learning. We'll fix some of the issues we have.

"The new athletic director has some great ideas to make sure this doesn't happen again."


March 3, 2014




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