Hopes that Whitmer might walk away unscathed from a state investigation into its athletic programs appear grim, with the Ohio High School Athletic Association comparing this probe to the one it conducted last year when it levied crippling sanctions against Canal Winchester Harvest Preparatory School.
A resolution to the investigation is not imminent, an OHSAA spokesperson said, this coming six weeks after representatives of Whitmer and the state's governing body of high school athletics met to discuss the findings of a probe that began last summer.
Sanctions Whitmer could endure include forfeitures of games and championships, probation, fines, and exclusion from postseason play, all of which Harvest Prep suffered last year after the OHSAA determined the school violated bylaws related to scholarship, transfers, recruiting, and administrative responsibility. All sports at the school were barred from the postseason last school year, with football and boys and girls basketball facing one more season of expulsion in 2012-13.
"Every situation like this is unique, but there are similarities with this situation and the one we experienced with Harvest Prep," OHSAA's Tim Stried said.
Stried would not say if the sanctions Whitmer faces parallel those of Harvest Prep, stating only that both cases are "significant." Whitmer continues to cooperate with the OHSAA, Stried said, adding that a conclusion to the matter will come relatively slowly in part because of summer obligations had by both parties.
Washington Local Schools superintendent Patrick Hickey declined to address the Harvest Prep comparisons, citing an agreement between representatives of his district and the OHSAA to not discuss the investigation before its conclusion.
"We had a wonderful meeting with them and we agreed to not have any comment until it was resolved," Hickey said. "If the OHSAA has commented on it, it's distressing to us, but we will stand by the agreement and not comment until we reach a resolution. We're fully confident we will reach a resolution that is acceptable to both organizations."
Hickey has maintained Whitmer's innocence, stating that the district has a system is in place to check on the living arrangements of all transfer students. Students living outside of the district are ineligible to participate in athletics sanctioned by the OHSAA. An unusually high number of transfers sparked the probe, with the OHSAA twice dispatching investigators to the area. Stried said the scope of the investigations begins with the 2009-10 academic year.
Central to the case is the eligibility of two-sport standout LeRoy Alexander. A state appellate court in May dismissed the OHSAA's appeal aimed at making Alexander ineligible, thus putting an end to the legal side of a contentious affair that began in August when Alexander obtained a preliminary injunction that withheld throughout his senior year. The OHSAA, according to Stried, contends it never declared Alexander eligible, meaning Whitmer could face forfeitures for every contest in which he participated because it permitted him to play. Alexander, who soon will begin his freshman football season at Nebraska, was a key member of Whitmer's football team that advanced to the state semifinals as well as its state runner-up basketball team.
"We never declared LeRoy Alexander eligible and the school allowed him to compete throughout the football and basketball seasons," Stried said. "We'll see where that leads to, but in past cases when a school has permitted an ineligible student to participate, those contests have been forfeited."
Whitmer could contend that its hands were tied, given that the district was a co-defendant along with the OHSAA in the lawsuit filed by Alexander.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.