By David Knox, Sports Editor
MONTGOMERY — John Carroll Catholic was one of four schools that had their postseason bans lifted in favor of a year’s probation by the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
The AHSAA Central Board of Control heard appeals from John Carroll, Muscle Shoals, Murphy and Daphne high schools. In each case, the board upheld the sanctions administered by the Executive Director Steve Savarese with one big adjustment: The one-year restrictive probation sanction in the respective sport was reduced to regular probation for one year – which allows the program to compete in championship play – competing and/or qualifying for the state playoffs and the state championship — during the probationary period.
Central Board President Mike Welsh said, “Because of the rule change in April, it allowed the board to consider the efforts of the schools in question to correct the problems. Before the rules change, the executive director did not have that option.”
He said each member school has taken measures that included self-imposed sanctions and restrictions. “Because of the actions taken by the schools, the board felt that lifting the restrictive probation was justified.”
The sports affected at each school were football at John Carroll and Muscle Shoals, girls basketball at Murphy and volleyball at Daphne.
Rule VI, Section 12 of the AHSAA Handbook did read that a school found recruiting, “will be placed on restrictive probation.” The April rule change by the Central Board of Control changed the word “will to “may.”
Muscle Shoals assistant coach Chris Balentine was banned from coaching for one year for the recruitment of Wilson High player Lex Morgan. That ban, and Morgan’s ineligibility to ever play at Muscle Shoals, was upheld. Head coach Scott Basden was not penalized.
Class 6A Muscle Shoals, a very successful program that has made the playoffs seven years in a row, was the 2015 runner-up in 5A.
Birmingham’s John Carroll, which was winless last season and hasn’t made the playoffs since 2009, isn’t as likely to benefit from the lifting of the ban. Assistant coaches Donald Cunningham and Arthur Stokes retain their one-year bans from AHSAA coaching and the recruited players may never play at John Carroll. Head coach Tim Sanders stepped down in May. Logan Colafrancesco is the Class 6A Cavaliers new coach.
The AHSAA did not release what other corrective actions had been taken by the schools.
Among other actions taken at its summer meeting, the AHSAA Central Board of Control:
*Approved returning a record $1.8 million to its member schools under its revenue-sharing plan. The plan, first approved by the board in 2009, has returned $9.8 million to its member schools over the past six years. The plan returns excess funds back to the schools when the AHSAA has at least one year’s working capital in reserve. The board also approved waiving membership dues for member schools for the 24th straight year – a cost savings of more than $83,000 in 2015-16 and approximately $2 million to member schools since 1992.
* The board also approved recommendations by the AHSAA’s Sports Committees including changing the new Baseball Pitch Count Rule pitching limitation from team level to grade level.
* Approved a new consent and release form that must be signed by all student-athletes and their parents beginning in 2016-17.
* Approved a recommendation from the Competition Committee to explore a State Cheerleading Plan that includes regional competition.