Naylor files three more complaints

Friday, March 30, 2007

Naylor school officials have filed new complaints with the Missouri State High School Activities Association, alleging that three more Southeast Missouri school districts violated association rules governing school sports.

The complaints were filed against the Doniphan, Clearwater and Van Buren school districts.

Naylor superintendent Stephen Cookson alleges various violations dealing with eligibility of student athletes, undue influence by a coach and forfeiture of a girl's basketball game.

Doniphan and Clearwater officials deny the allegations. Van Buren superintendent Jeffrey Lindsey declined to comment, saying he hadn't seen a copy of the complaint that alleges officials in his district canceled a scheduled basketball game with Naylor in violation of a contract and MSHSAA rules.

"This is the first time we have ever dealt with anything like this," Lindsey said.

The complaints, filed earlier this month, are on the agenda for a meeting of MSHSAA's board of directors this weekend at Tan-Tar-A at the Lake of the Ozarks.

Kerwin Urhahn, the association's executive director, wrote in an e-mail to the Southeast Missourian that he will recommend the board table the items while association staff and the group's investigative committee look into the allegations.

School officials in the tiny Naylor School District, located near the Arkansas line, allege:

* A former Doniphan High School girls basketball player didn't live in the school district in violation of MSHSAA residency requirements for student athletes.

* Doniphan girls basketball coach Jimbo Blackwell used undue influence in 2005 to try to keep an assistant coach from taking a job with the Naylor School District and moving his basketball-playing daughter to that school district.

* Blackwell used undue influence in 2005 to try to convince a mother to move her daughter from the Greenville School District to the Doniphan School District so the girl could play on the basketball team.

* A former boys baseball player at Clearwater High School didn't live in the school district when he played for the team in the 2002-2003 school year in violation of MSHSAA residency requirements.

* Van Buren school officials improperly canceled a girls' basketball game with Naylor Dec. 14 in violation of MSHSAA rules.

In February, officials in the Naylor district filed a complaint with MSHSAA against the Bell City School District. That complaint alleges members of the boys basketball team didn't meet residency requirements and that one player was improperly enrolled in the school district.

Cookson said all of the complaints were filed in response to action taken by the MSHSAA board against Naylor in January.

The board punished the school district for alleged residency violations involving the girls basketball and softball teams. The board ordered Naylor to forfeit all of its high school girls basketball and softball games played last year, including its girls basketball championship. The Naylor girls basketball team also was barred from playing in the post-season district tournament this spring.

Cookson contends MSHSAA severely punished Naylor while ignoring rules violations in other school districts.

"I am just trying to see that everything is consistent and done fairly," he said. "We already have had our punishment."

Clearwater superintendent Blane Keel, who serves on the MSHSAA board of directors, denied the allegation against his district. He said evidence showed the student lived in the district for a period of time and MSHSAA agreed the student was eligible to play on the Clearwater High School baseball team.

"Mr. Cookson is on a witch hunt. He has a taste of sour grapes, and he wants it spread to other people," Keel said.

Doniphan superintendent Kevin Sandlin said, "I believe we have not done anything wrong or inappropriate."

Blackwell, Doniphan's coach, didn't return telephone calls made to the high school Thursday.

335-6611, extension 123

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