José Luis Villegas / The Sacramento Bee

Sheldon High School boys basketball coach Joey Rollings (kneeling) was suspended by the school, and the Sac-Joaquin Section added its own sanctions after an investigation into allegations of improper transfers and undue influence.

Sheldon boys basketball program hit with more penalties

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 - 7:34 am

The fallout continues for the beleaguered Sheldon High School boys basketball program.

Two weeks after the Elk Grove Unified School District suspended Huskies coach Joey Rollings for four weeks following an investigation into allegations of transfers and undue influence, the Sac-Joaquin Section on Monday levied its punishment.

The governing office backed the EGUSD, finding that Sheldon, which has won four consecutive Division I section championships, committed multiple violations of CIF bylaws in the last school year and ruling five players ineligible, effective immediately, with four ineligible for one calendar year, until Jan. 27, 2015.

The section did not release the names of the five players.

The section also banned Sheldon from the playoffs this season and reduced the number of games it can play next season from 27 to 24. In addition, the team will be limited to one tournament in each of the next two seasons, and the basketball program was placed on probation for the rest of this academic year and the next two school years.

The section determined that there were “several instances of undue influence in trying to persuade current high school players to transfer to Sheldon.”

According to the section, the violations included:

• Providing a free ticket to a player for a playoff game last March at Sleep Train Arena.

• Parents of Sheldon players paying for meals for players not enrolled at Sheldon.

• Open gym sessions at Sheldon that included players not enrolled at the school.

• Fraudulent information provided by incoming transfers.

“The penalties are absolutely more than fair,” section Commissioner Pete Saco said. “There’s a lot of innuendos and a lot of things that went wrong, and it all adds up. The Elk Grove District needs to be acknowledged and commended for what it did, the investigation, and that should be the norm in this state. They sensed something and embarked on an investigation and then submitted it to us.”

This is the section’s harshest penalty for any of its 197 member-schools since Franklin of Stockton football was punished in 2007. In that case, a section investigation found at least 10 players had transferred from American Samoa to Franklin, lured by coaches through undue influence. The team received a two-year postseason ban that originally was five years. The school’s other programs, initially barred from postseason play, later were allowed to participate.

“This is not Franklin,” Saco stressed Monday. “Franklin was a whole different animal.”

Saco said Monday he has been in contact with Sheldon principal Paula Duncan and that two players may have their suspensions reduced.

“I feel awful, and I feel so badly for these kids,” Duncan said. “It’s not to say that all the violations are untrue. We made mistakes. We self-reported. We’re not trying to hide anything. Our goal is to never have kids pay a steep price like this again, for anything. Whatever we need to do to be more vigilant, we’ll do it.”

Duncan said she doesn’t believe her coaches were brazenly trying to lure players but will continue to address issues surrounding the Amateur Athletic Union and players’ parents.

To that end, the section now will require that any AAU practices held at Sheldon in the offseason must include a log-in sheet of all attendees, signed by a Sheldon administrator and forwarded to the EGUSD.

Duncan was greeted by mixed emotions when she met with Sheldon players Monday. Some were angry, others sad, she said.

And she stressed the real victims are the players.

“I told them that how they deal with this will help define who they are,” Duncan said. “It’ll define your character. These are relationships you will have for the next 10 to 20 years. People will be coming at you, making comments, and how you handle it will be part of … growing up.”

EGUSD administrators and coaches will undergo continuing education with section staff regarding CIF bylaws.

Todd Reiswig, the district’s interim athletic director, said education – for parents, too – is vital to prevent violations.

“Maybe a lot of parents don’t know the rules,” Reiswig said. “We can educate people. The CIF mandate is that you choose a school for academics first and athletics is secondary to that. Does that always happen? It’s an education process going forward.”

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD and listen to his “Extra Point” every Wednesday on ESPN Radio 1320.

Read more articles by Joe Davidson

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