It may have been overzealous competition for future athletes, or simply a couple of errors attributed to a misunderstanding of athletic bylaws.
But the actions of the football programs at both Sylvania high schools — Southview and Northview — were each ruled to be in violation of Ohio High School Athletic Association bylaws dealing with recruiting incoming high school student-athletes.
Dr. Brad Rieger, superintendent of Sylvania Schools, was forthcoming in acknowledging the violations Friday. He vowed to have his district accept responsibility for the wrongdoings, and use the OHSAA rulings as a learning experience to grow from.
“I’ve had meetings with the principals, athletic directors and coaches at both schools and basically said, ‘We have to get our house in order,’ “ Rieger said. “That means we have to learn from this and make sure we are following the letter and spirit of the OHSAA bylaws.
“I asked the OHSAA to send a trainer to us so that they can provide a comprehensive overview, and train our administrators and coaches about recruiting issues, about off-season workouts, about mandatory no-contact periods and other relevant topics.”
The state high school athletic governing body regulates and administers interscholastic athletic competition.
Sylvania has three junior high schools — Arbor Hills, McCord, and Timberstone — which feed into Northview and Southview high schools based on defined geographical districts. A large majority of Timberstone’s enrollment feeds into Southview, while significant percentages of McCord and Arbor Hills are split between the two high school districts.
The Southview and Northview violations were each linked to these geographical districts and the open enrollment policy.
Veteran Southview head coach Jim Mayzes was ruled to be in violation of OHSAA Bylaw 4-9-1 on recruiting because of contact he made with an eighth grade student at McCord Junior High.
That violation came with a two-year probation for the Southview football program, and a fine of $500. Any further recruiting violations during the period of probation will cause Southview to lose its opportunity to participate in the OHSAA’s postseason playoffs, and possibly further sanctions.
Northview athletic director Chris Irwin was found to be in violation of OHSAA Bylaw 4-9-2, Exception 1, on recruiting. Irwin’s infraction was providing recently hired head football coach Marek Moldawsky with a list of students who lived in the designated Northview attendance area while attending Timberstone. Those students had been approved by Sylvania schools, via open enrollment, to attend Southview entering the ninth grade.
The inferred intent was that Moldawsky would make contact with these students in an attempt to persuade them to stay within their district and attend Northview.
This violation came only with a warning from the OHSAA, which issued no participation ban, probation period or fine. The open-enrollment students in question will attend Southview.
“The first [violation] against Southview was a complaint filed by a Northview assistant football coach,” said Rieger, who identified that coach as Dan Dubiel.
“The infraction at Northview came to light through our student services office that deals with open enrollment and registration.
“Through conversations with some parents, and after we started talking about this, we discovered that some things could be problematic. We discovered that one ourselves.”
Rieger confirmed that the internal investigation on Mayzes, which was conducted by Robert Verhelst, director of student services for Sylvania Schools, concluded that no violation had occurred based on the district’s policies.
Irwin’s infraction was reported to the OHSAA directly by the district. OHSAA informed Sylvania Schools of Northview’s violation in a July 13 letter from Moore.
“The kids that Chris Irwin knew about were kids who were living in the Northview attendance area and who had put in for open enrollment,” Rieger said.
“He made the suggestion to the football coach, Marek Moldawsky, to ‘see if you can get these kids to stay,’ thinking that it was OK to basically try to keep your own kids. That was the rationale.
“We asked Chris if he did that and he said, ‘Yes, because I wanted to try to keep our kids at Northview.’ He freely admitted it.”
The superintendent labeled both infractions as having stemmed from a “lack of awareness.”
“But that’s not an excuse in my book,” Rieger said, “for the Southview program or the Northview program.
“When the school district says in February that a kid is good to go to Southview, then Northview should be hands off.”
The school district will not be taking any further disciplinary action against Mayzes or Irwin, according to Rieger, who said the future emphasis would be on preventing such violations.
“The bottom line is that there are some parameters in place for coaches as far as what they can and can’t do in talking to seventh and eighth graders,” Rieger said. “For kids living in the Southview attendance area, all [Southview] high school coaches can have conversations with those kids. But, if they don’t live in that area, you can’t talk to them. Both programs kind of crossed over that barrier.”
Mayzes acknowledged he spoke to the student in question on two occasions, the first during basketball season when the boy was conversing with [Mayzes’] daughter after a McCord game, and the second time prior to a Northview-Southview basketball game.
On each occasion, Mayzes said the extent of his conversation was asking the boy where he would be attending high school.
“The state has some very strict rules about speaking to people from other school systems that are very difficult to follow in Sylvania when the lines for schools cross over so much,” Mayzes said. “It’s hard to know which kid is which when there’s no ‘S’ or ‘N’ on their forehead when you say hello to somebody.”
Rieger’s hope is that understanding such things will become crystal clear in the future.
“We have to make sure that athletic directors and all of our coaches understand what the bylaws are for recruiting as they pertain to a school district like ours with two high schools,” he said. “There are some nuances to that because we have two high schools. We have to make sure that everyone knows what those [nuances] are. We are one school district and these are all Sylvania kids. We can’t poach from each other. You can be very proud of and enthusiastic about your program, and you can want kids to come and be a part of it. But we can’t undercut each other at the two high schools, so that’s what’s going to stop.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461.