Scott County Central hopes MSHSAA will lift penalties

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Officials from the school will attend a MSHSAA board meeting after submitting new evidence in regard to rules violations.

While the Missouri State High School Activities Association won't revisit the investigation of Scott County Central and coach David Heeb, officials at the school hope the MSHSAA board reconsiders the penalties against the school and eventually drops them.

Heeb and Scott County Central superintendent Joby Holland will attend Wednesday's meeting of the board in Columbia, Mo. The school has requested the reconsideration from the board and has submitted new evidence in the attempt to make its case.

MSHSAA spokesman Rick Kindhart said the board is expected to determine Wednesday only if it will reconsider the penalty phase, which could take place later this year. Scott County Central officials are not expected to take part in the board's discussion, but they have submitted the request and other documentation.

"From my standpoint, we're very hopeful the sanctions will be reversed," Holland said. "That's premature, but I think there's been a plentiful amount of doubt placed on this case. I hope that with all the information that's come to light that they'll revisit the penalty phase."

The MSHSAA board of directors in an April 8 meeting handed out penalties to Scott County Central and Heeb for undue influence in trying to lure players from Bell City, where Heeb coached for five seasons through 2004-05, to Scott County Central. The penalties will keep Heeb from coaching or attending games in the second semester of the 2006-07 season. The penalties also restrict Heeb from participating and organizing in open gyms during the three years that Scott County Central will be on probation.

The penalties followed an investigation that began in October 2005, when Bell City filed a complaint to MSHSAA that players and parents had been contacted by Heeb.

School documents new evidence

Holland and Heeb say they have submitted information to MSHSAA's board of directors that refutes the findings.

Included in their documentation is a report by Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that found Bell City had at least nine students attending school in 2005-06 who did not live in Bell City and that the district was accepting state funds for those students, who were not being charged tuition. That case is still pending an appeal.

Three of those students were among those who made allegations included in Bell City's report to MSHSAA that Heeb was exerting undue influence.

Scott County also submitted statements from three players refuting claims that surround those players in the initial investigative report. Included is one letter from a student athlete who had allegedly told a Bell City administrator that Heeb recruited him, according to the initial complaint.

In addition, MSHSAA received a letter from another person who was a witness in the appeals hearing regarding a conversation Heeb had with another parent at the conclusion of the 2004-05 school year. The letter attempts to clarify the contents of the conversation, among other issues.

That witness also met with Heeb and Holland, the summary of which was included in Scott County Central's documentation to MSHSAA. That summary includes, among other things, the allegation that the original letters from students were written in a coordinated fashion.

"Absolutely not true," said Bell City coach Brian Brandtner, who added that MSHSAA's initial investigation covered that ground. "They're just trying to make it look like it was fly-by-night. The investigation was pretty thorough."

Scott County Central's claims actually go beyond questioning the investigation process -- although that, as well as inconsistencies in the penalty handed down by MSHSAA in cases of undue influence, is part of the school's letter to MSHSAA.

Holland concluded his letter to MSHSAA's board of directors by writing: "We have a great amount of documentation and evidence from several key witnesses, in addition to the information found in the DESE investigation that shows Bell City's lack of credibility as administrators and as an institution. Certain individuals, directly and indirectly, connected to Bell City High School and the MSHSAA have engaged in a personal vendetta against David Heeb."

Heeb said the board made its initial decision in April based on information that was not subject to due process.

"I don't blame the board," he said. "If I was on the board and was given that information, I probably would've voted the same way. I believe the board had no idea the investigation was conducted this way, and I don't think the investigators had any idea the information was presented this way. Somebody manipulated the process.

"Now that the truth is out there, I hope they do the right thing."

Brandtner said Bell City will respect whatever decision MSHSAA makes on Wednesday.

"We have confidence it will be the right decision, whatever the outcome," he said. "The process was thorough and tedious. It included four steps and they were found guilty at every step."

While the guilty finding may never be erased, Holland believes there is enough new evidence to wipe out the penalty completely. And he hopes the board decides to do it sooner rather than later. The board's next regularly scheduled meeting is in September.

"For us to wait until September, we will be under the penalty for six or seven months," Holland said. "My hope is that if the board decides to revisit it, they will schedule a special board meeting -- which they can do -- and try to resolve this soon.

"We've nullified [the charges] with the documentation. They need to go back and make changes and not wait until September."

Holland and Heeb both said they are willing to pursue legal action if necessary.

"We're prepared to go that route if we have to," Holland said. "We wouldn't spend the time and the money if we didn't think we were in the right. David has done everything asked of him, and our school needs to be exonerated."

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