LEXINGTON – Bowling Green High School will receive increased monitoring from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association but will not lose its 2017 boys basketball state championship over recruiting violations, according to an agreement announced Thursday.
The announcement comes after five years of hearings and investigations by the KHSAA surrounding Bowling Green’s boys basketball program and the living arrangements made for former player Zion Harmon, who was an eighth-grader on the Purples team that defeated Cooper 67-56 on March 19, 2017, for the school’s first Sweet 16 title.
“We’re ready to move forward,” said Gary Fields, superintendent for Bowling Green Independent Schools and the principal at Bowling Green High School in 2017. “Some of the things we’re going to do under this enhanced observation hopefully is going to give some help to some districts that are going to start dealing with non-resident students. … Maybe we can create a model the KHSAA can use, and they’re going to help us train. ”
Penalties announced Thursday were less severe than those the KHSAA originally proposed.
After Thursday morning’s meeting – which included a closed session that lasted one hour – KHSAA Board of Control voted 14-0 in favor of the reduced penalties, with board members Darrell Billings and Greg Howard abstaining.
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In a Jan. 12, 2022, letter obtained by The Courier Journal, KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett wrote to Fields and Bowling Green High principal Kyle McGraw that the following penalties would be imposed:
- Vacating Bowling Green’s boys basketball district, regional and state titles during the 2016-17 season.
- Probation through the 2021-22 school year “for failure to exercise institutional control.”
- A July review of Bowling Green’s membership in the KHSAA.
- A fine of $ 1,000.
- Restitution of $ 5,211 for travel allowances paid to the 2017 Sweet 16.
- Restitution of $ 4,480.18 for KHSAA expenses for outside investigative resources.
That letter was not made public by the KHSAA, which noted Bowling Green had 30 days to appeal the penalties to the association’s Board of Control.
Lawyer Jason Ams, representing the KHSAA, said during Thursday’s meeting “a significant exchange of information” took place between KHSAA and Bowling Green High officials since January, leading to a new proposal.
“I would stress the penalties that are now in place are still significant,” Ams said. “They’re just different. It’s properly reflective of the investigation and the work of all the parties involved. ”
Tackett said there were “important clarifications” made since the January letter was sent to Bowling Green.
“Had we gotten all the information before, the (January) letter would have looked quite a bit different,” Tackett said.
Fields said Bowling Green will receive “enhanced monitoring for three years” and will be required to provide the KHSAA with names and addresses of all coaches and non-resident students who attend the school.
Fields said the school will also pay for “three consecutive summers of training by the KHSAA for our professionals, guidance counselors and secretaries.”
In the Jan. 12 letter, the KHSAA details what it called a “direct violation of Bylaw 16,” which covers recruitment and undue influence.
Previous coverage:KHSAA investigating Bowling Green boys basketball team
Tackett wrote that the KHSAA review began in January of 2017 after Harmon – identified as “ZH” in the letter – posted a video on social media in which he said “he had been recruited to Bowling Green High School.”
The KHSAA received a written request for review of the video from Warren County Schools district athletic director Eric Wilson.
After an investigation, the KHSAA found evidence that Harmon and his father, Mike, were living in Bowling Green with Anthony Hickey Sr., who was then an assistant coach with the high school’s girls basketball program.
“Bowling Green knew or should have known that a violation of Bylaw 16 occurred in this matter,” Tackett wrote in the letter. “This would clearly show that this student and his parent were receiving impermissible benefits from Bowling Green regarding housing.
“This is further demonstrated by the fact, as verified by the property owner, Hickey was at least partially responsible for assisting (Mike Harmon) and (Zion Harmon) in locating and occupying this residence. It was later confirmed that (Zion Harmon) also signed the official documents surrounding the lease. ”
Fields said there was no intent to violate Bylaw 16.
“There was no effort to hide anything; we thought it was within the rules, ”he said. “Later (the KHSAA) explained it wasn’t.”
Zion Harmon left Bowling Green High School after the 2016-17 season and earned first-team Courier Journal All-State honors as a freshman at Adair County (2017-18) and as a junior (2019-20) and senior (2020-21). ) at Marshall County.
He signed with Western Kentucky University but did not play for the Hilltoppers last season.
Jason Frakes: 502-582-4046; email@example.com; Twitter: @kyhighs.