COLUMBIA, Mo. — The state high school athletics association on Wednesday stripped Vashon High School of three state championships in boys basketball for recruiting violations and using ineligible players.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association board voted unanimously to strip Vashon of its 2001, 2004 and 2006 state titles. Those titles will now go to the three runners-up in those years: Liberty, Kearney and Kickapoo.
Vashon also must forfeit five district championships and a 2005 second-place state finish for using six ineligible players, as well as all of its wins in those seasons and its championship trophies.
A two-year state investigation examined the eligibility of at least 15 Vashon players from 1998 to 2007, a period during which the St. Louis high school won five state titles under former coach Floyd Irons.
Irons was one of the most successful coaches in state history, a state sports hall of fame inductee who won more than 800 games and 10 of the school's 11 state championships over 33 years.
His Wolverines basketball dynasty came crashing down in early 2006 after an internal audit revealed Vashon administrators had spent improperly $50,000 on a scoreboard, about $100,000 for new uniforms and $5,900 on a gymnasium floor.
Irons pleaded guilty in September 2007 to mail and wire fraud in a real estate scheme designed to kick back thousands of dollars to him and a partner, and later was sentenced to one year in federal prison.
As part of a plea agreement, Irons was required to tell the association everything he knew about any alleged recruiting violations.
He admitted spending more than $25,000 to rent an apartment for two Illinois brothers, Johnny and Bobby Hill, near Vashon. Johnny Hill was a member of the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team last season. His status on the team still is uncertain.
The Hills were key members of Irons' teams, earning district, all-Metro and all-state honors while leading Vashon to the 2004 Class 4 state championship and the Class 5 title in 2006, along with a second-place Class 5 finish in 2005.
Rick Sindel, Irons' lawyer, suggested that his client and Vashon were held to a tougher standard because of the program's high-profile and sustained success.
"When you win like that, you have your supporters and your enemies," he said.
As for the eligibility violations, Sindel said that school administrators, not Irons, were responsible for verifying student addresses and other transfer information.
One of those administrators was Irons: he was Vashon's principal from 2002 to 2004 and also worked as the St. Louis school district's athletics director.
"This isn't like suburbia," Sindel said. "Sometimes these kids are extremely transient, and move from one family member to another, depending upon what happens in the home environment. He wasn't always aware of where they lived. It was up to the school district to check residency."
The state association's decision Wednesday was not unprecedented. The boys basketball team from Pembroke Hill in Kansas City was stripped of three state titles from 1996 to 1999 for similar violations.