GHSA bans Milton basketball from postseason

By Todd Holcomb and David Purdum

For the AJC

The Georgia High School Association on Tuesday banned reigning boys basketball state champion Milton from region and state playoffs for the 2012-13 season because of illegally influencing student-athletes to transfer to the north Fulton County school.

Milton’s former coach, David Boyd, resigned Sept. 10 after Milton and Fulton County Schools reported to the GHSA allegations of undue influence.

Under Boyd, Milton won state titles in 2010 and 2012 with several major college recruits, most of whom transferred from other schools. It follows a trend that many find disturbing: No boys basketball team has won Georgia’s highest classification in more than a decade without participating with a high-profile transfer.

The Fulton County investigation that led to Boyd’s resignation — obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under Georgia’s open records act – revealed that:

  • Boyd recommended rental properties to parents and students who were interested in transferring into the district. Several Milton players have lived in the same apartment complex within the school district.
  • Boyd invited multiple basketball players, not enrolled at Milton, to open practices in the offseason and evaluated them as potential transfers.
  • None of Milton’s former players were part of the investigation or implicated in illegal recruiting.

The report also stated that Roswell basketball coach Ty Phillips filed the initial complaints about Boyd in August. One of Phillips’ former players sought to transfer to Milton.

GHSA Bylaw 1.70 states that it is illegal to influence or induce a student to transfer from one school to another for competitive purposes.

In addition to the postseason ban, the GHSA placed Milton on Severe Warning Status for the 2013-14 and fined the school an undisclosed amount, no greater than $2,500. The GHSA can discipline member schools, but not coaches.

Boyd came to Milton in 2007, when the school had made the state playoffs only three times since 1960. In Boyd’s five seasons, Milton advanced to the state finals four consecutive times and traveled nationally to prestigious showcase tournaments with the state’s top prospects, including Julian Royal (now at Georgia Tech), Evan Nolte (Virginia), Charles Mann (Georgia), Shaquille Johnson (Auburn), Shannon Scott (Ohio State) and Dai-Jon Parker (Vanderbilt). Except for Royal and Nolte, the most prominent players were transfers.

The investigation identified the Lexington Farm Apartments in Alpharetta as home to several Milton basketball players. The report states that “it has been alleged, and not yet confirmed or denied, that some of these students are living there alone and the addresses are only used to allow residence verification.”

Although Milton lost Mann and three other college-bound seniors to graduation, Boyd expected to have a team that could defend its title. He had emailed Milton boosters and national and local media during the summer and mentioned as many as five transfers for the 2012-13 season. Each was a college prospect.

One was former Roswell player Shawn O’Connell. According to the report, O’Connell has two younger brothers who, because of redistricting of the Milton and Roswell school zones, would be forced to attend Milton.

Another was Johnnie Vassar from Indiana. According to the investigation, Vassar has withdrawn from the Fulton County School System and is enrolling at a school in California.

Boyd indicated to Vassar’s mother when summer practices began and the days of the week they were held, according to the investigation. Boyd confirmed that Vassar visited the school and worked out four or five additional times. Boyd stated to investigators that he did evaluate Vassar during the practices, according to the report.

The third player was Zach Hodskins from Tennessee. On June 9, Boyd emailed Tennessee AAU coach Markus Gibbs, inquiring about the skill set of Hodskins, the investigation said.

Boyd said that Hodskins’ father wanted to make sure his son could play with Milton before moving the student into the district. Hodskins practiced two or three times with Milton before enrolling, according to the report.

While these are three primary instances, the report indicated that several other students were invited by Boyd to practice with Milton during this past summer. The investigation contains at least a dozen emails between Boyd and parents and coaches. Boyd assessed the players who were not enrolled at Milton in several emails.

Fulton County athletics director Steven Craft said the investigation found examples of undue influence on multiple occasions.

Supplying real estate information to possible transfers is considered undue influence, Craft said. Boyd admitted in a Sept. 6 interview that he offers recommendations and locations for rental properties to students transferring into the Milton district.

Craft said that was undue influence. “You tell people you have a great community and great programs and that they have a chance to be a part of a great situation, and leave at that,’’ Craft said.

Craft considered these practices to be tryouts to see how players would fit into Boyd’s program. Regarding invitations to players to attend practices or games: “He used those sessions to assess players and comment about their abilities.”

Craft wanted to be clear that the investigation did not find evidence of what Craft called recruiting, which suggests a teacher or coach reached out to a player first.

The GHSA’s Swearngin acknowledged that this was a key distinction.

“Sometimes they go hand-in-hand, and sometimes they don’t,’’ Swearngin said. “Undue influence is what you do to induce or facilitate a transfer even if you didn’t make the initial contact.’’

Boyd saw no wrongdoing with any of it. “I had at least 20 sets of parents contact me with interest in coming to Milton,” he said Tuesday. “They didn’t all come to Milton, but they went somewhere. I don’t know what you’re supposed to do. … I’m disappointed that the players who came on their own to participate aren’t going to be allowed to play in the postseason. I’m very sorry about that. But as far as doing something illegal or unethical, all I’m trying to help kids.”

Social media was mentioned extensively in the investigation, including multiple negative posts by Boyd, when referring to Phillips.

“Make sure to know that Ty Phillips at Roswell started this by crying to his AD that one of his players who lives in our district [and had a choice] came to Milton,” a Sept. 11 post read. “That was a family decision. One thing about it; his record against us is 0-11. Good luck down the road Ty. I am thankful for people like you; you make me realize how much we have done that is good.”

The post has since been deleted.

Phillips declined to elaborate on anything involving the investigation into Boyd.

“My focus is on our team and what’s relevant to our program,’’ Phillips said. “All that other stuff that involves other people is not what we’re focusing on.”

165 comments Add your comment

Dekalb County Guy

October 9th, 2012
1:33 pm

Wow, all the details come out now. Well its not new, using an apt complex as bogus addresses has been going on for years to get athletes eligible to play. But the GHSA is definitely making an example of Milton and this will definitley make some of the other “cheats” think twice about doing this.

SOAAME

October 9th, 2012
1:43 pm

If all of those allegations are true then Milton Boy’s Basketball Team should have to forfiet the 2011-2012 state championship as well. This wasn’t something that just started, this has been going on for a while and it’s not fare to the Schools who follow the rules and regulations ie..Savannah High School. If we are suppose to be upheld to the rules then Savannah High School is your 2011-2012 State Champions in Region AAAAA…not ifs, ands or buts!

Champ_Dad

October 9th, 2012
1:45 pm

Why penalize the kids?

broomcloset

October 9th, 2012
1:47 pm

Schools hve done this for years..#1 Norcross then #2 Wheeler …we just got caught.. easy road to the championship now

bigman1396

October 9th, 2012
1:52 pm

They deserve what they get. Everybody knew something had to have been going on at that time.

Tiger4Life

October 9th, 2012
2:15 pm

The coach lost his job, okay good. But why do the kids that didn’t trasfer have to suffer? All the kids that was going to come are now at different schools #ijs

Metro Coach

October 9th, 2012
2:19 pm

So when does the investigation into Miller Grove’s program start?

gt1975

October 9th, 2012
2:20 pm

It is ok for a student to transfer to a school to enhance their educational resume to get to the better schools; but for an athlete to want better coaching to have a better chance at getting to the next level, the athlete is not allowed to pursue that avenue. Does not seem fair.

Whistleblower

October 9th, 2012
2:20 pm

Ron Link at Athens Christian has been doing the same thing. He likes the Carribean kids like the one they got in trouble with last year. Keep your eye on him.

GHSA

October 9th, 2012
2:24 pm

McEachern Girls Basketball, we’re coming for you next!!

RT

October 9th, 2012
2:24 pm

First, Milton should be ashamed of themselves. They knew exactly what they were getting, David has a long track record for bringing in kids. He brought severak kids in, won a couple of championships and then you turned your back on him like you didn’t know this was going on. If you really want to make a statement take back the state titles.
David did the same think at Berkmar with the apartment complex and bringing kids in. Pretty common knowlege that he had a kid from East Hall and Roswell transfer in and live in the apartments across the street from Berkmar.

Here’s a strange idea…Coach the kids who are in your building. Maybe you will have one or two of those great players in you career and win a state championship the right way. Truly, you don’t have to be a great coach when you have 5 or 6 division 1 players on you team. You may have the rings but you know in you heart you cheated to get them.

Baby boys

October 9th, 2012
2:24 pm

Every school does this.

GBI

October 9th, 2012
2:28 pm

Now that we have that cleared up, on to the next cheater. Buford, I’m looking at you.

logrhd

October 9th, 2012
2:33 pm

i agree with Champ_Dad why penalize the kids

Da Truth

October 9th, 2012
2:35 pm

Buford should be next in every sport!

Eagle Dad

October 9th, 2012
2:36 pm

@GHSA- has McEachern had some new girls move in under questionable circumstances? I don’t think there were any last season- all but one came up through their junior basketball program.

Just Asking

October 9th, 2012
2:37 pm

As a high school coach, this is disturbing. I will never play a non-region game with any school accused of this type of behavior. Region ones are required.

Let the ‘cheaters’ play each other.

K From Da Wood

October 9th, 2012
2:39 pm

Metro Coach…I think Miller Grove is a little different. The kids definitely live in the South Dekalb community, but with so many of the schools being poor performing schools and not meeting AYP, if the students are transfers they are usually legit. If you want to investigate, you should investigate football teams. With that said, no one should be surprised. Most coaches aren’t as actively involved as Boyd, he’s a little extra arrogant if you ask me, but most programs worth their salt have parents and players that keep the pipeline full without the coaches involvement.

steve

October 9th, 2012
2:42 pm

Tift Co. basketball, you’re next.

K From Da Wood

October 9th, 2012
2:42 pm

There was at least one McEachern girl that came from SWD even though her sister went to Alcovy and she herself went to middle school in Newton Co., but stuff like that is overlooked all the time!

I dropped my fried twinkie

October 9th, 2012
2:43 pm

Everybody knew it but nobody did anything about BOYD for years. Look there are not that many black folks living in the Milton district much less 5 or 6 5 star basketball recruits 6′-6″+ tall. Give me a break that it took this long to make the cheating stop.

Tom

October 9th, 2012
2:49 pm

I have a question for all of the people who are saying “Why punish the kids?” How do you suggest the GHSA punish a school that is found in violation of rules in such a manner that the situation does not repeat itself? Simply fining a school will not send a message to the students-athletes. “Punishing the kids” will send a message loudly and clearly. Thank goodness that the GHSA finally has done something about a situation that has obviously been evident for any number of years.

Noneya

October 9th, 2012
3:00 pm

Nothing new under the sun. I did the same thing when I transferred and played at a different high school in the late 90s. It’s funny how the principal and the administration acted as if they didn’t know what was going on. They have access to the records of the guys who were transferring in. They could see that these guys were basically living at the same address. (apt complex)

PDM

October 9th, 2012
3:01 pm

Question: Why punish the kids?

Answer: We sink, we swim, we rise, we fall, we make our fate together ….

That is why.

Heisenberg

October 9th, 2012
3:03 pm

HS kids staying in an apartment by themselves without parent or adult supervision? Who is paying for the rent and meals? Seems like child welfare would want to look into that. Holy crap!

Just a Fan

October 9th, 2012
3:04 pm

Makes you just want to say”to h–l with it all.High school sports have been forever changed over the past few years.The report by GHSA indicating over 6000 athletic transfers in 1 year says it all.These figures do not include the transfers that occur before 9th grade.It is community sports with pride no more in so many areas(mainly metro).

Champ_Dad

October 9th, 2012
3:05 pm

then punish the entire staff.. Are we saying its only Boyd here?

region concession stand worker

October 9th, 2012
3:08 pm

Take ALL his titles from Milton, Berkmar etc…put on big boy Boxers GHSA

jw

October 9th, 2012
3:08 pm

Hey, GHSA – how about clamping down on the metro schools a little bit more – stop waiting for someone to turn in another school – y’all can stop the transfers – do it. Is this a token example of making sure the metro schools play nice and now you go back after the small schools again? It’s a joke that you turn and look the other way while all this garbage happens all over the state – how about fixing the problem and not letting it continue.

No BS, no ‘what if’ stuff from folks, just step up and stop the college like recruiting that goes on – you guys know the dirty coaches – clamp down on them and get rid of them. Eliminate the AAU influence – all AAU does is provide a loophole practice and recruitment system – fix it.

Eagle Dad

October 9th, 2012
3:12 pm

Mceachern girl from SWD is the one who did not come up through the jr program. Word is her mom took a job with Cobb County school system and they moved over there. Maybe you have other information though. Still rare to see that many homegrown on a team that wins a title especially in the highest class.

Resident

October 9th, 2012
3:12 pm

This happens more times than not, the only difference is that this is a public school. GHSA needs to start coming down on the private schools too.

As another poster said ATHENS CHRISTIAN has been doing this for years in a variety of different sports. Can’t afford tuition? Don’t worry about it, we will cover you. A and AA schools can’t compete with these guys because schools like ACS recruit the best players, leaving public schools with the left overs.

GHSA VP

October 9th, 2012
3:13 pm

who should we go after please send us a list

THEX

October 9th, 2012
3:15 pm

Boyd should run for political office-he’d fit right in!

That Guy

October 9th, 2012
3:18 pm

First off, the kids were living in the district and those weren’t bogus addresses. Second, Milton has the highest SAT scores of any school in the metro area. These kids could have gone anywhere to play but instead they came here because Boyde got them into college not only of basketball, but made sure they had the grades too. Most of the people on here are just mad they can’t have athletic programs like Milton.

THEX

October 9th, 2012
3:21 pm

That guy – wrong- that would be Northview High School with the highest SAT, ACT, GPA.

UGA

October 9th, 2012
3:25 pm

That Guy – wrong- that would be Northview High School with the highest SAT, ACT, GPA.
But you keep trying to validate Milton’s actions.

Paul Bryant, JR

October 9th, 2012
3:25 pm

Speaking of adept cheating in athletics….

ROLL TIDE !!!!

Paul Bryant, JR

October 9th, 2012
3:27 pm

If you ain’t cheating to get the very best athletes to come to your school, you sure as [heck] ain’t even trying.

ROLL TIDE !!!!

YeaYea

October 9th, 2012
3:27 pm

Coaches have become quite comfortable with blatant cheating. Zach Smith of North Gwinnett allowed Jerry Stackhouse to enroll his entire AAU/Travel team. He then sat down talented seniors to make spot for Jerry’s 10th grade players. Were it not for Chris Bolden, they would have loss every game last season. Now Chris is gone and the best players transferred out…will Jerry doctor some birth certificates and put some of the Hawks’ bench players on the NG team to support his kids??

North Gwinnett and Zach Smith will do whatever it takes to kiss up to Jerry Stackhouse and his Dekalb County AAU team….our tax dollars at work.

Eagle Dad

October 9th, 2012
3:29 pm

What a crock of crap That Guy. I can actually understand a bit more when a kid transfers to help his chances of playing at the next level. But these kids coming to Milton had offers from MANY schools. A coach at ANY high school can make sure a kid has the grades. It does not matter one bit what the schools SAT average is. You must be Boyd himself, trying to justify. Just stop it.

mike

October 9th, 2012
3:31 pm

I guess those other schools got tired of losing to the schools whose teams look like most NBA teams one way or another. Instead of coaching up just make all kinds of allegations.

OKAY...

October 9th, 2012
3:31 pm

@metro what do you mean investigation into Miller Grove basketball, you think they have not been investigated. (come on 4 straight) oh yeah, can you name a transfer on Miller Grove basketball team in the last 4 yrs, that played a role in the teams success. The kids that were at Miller Grove the last four years started in the 9th grade and remained there until graduation. I can assure you they have been investigated, especially with thier coaches rocky past at Carver. The only way to stop transfers is to make every kid who transfers sit out a year, legit or not. This solves one problem but creates a legal one.

That Guy

October 9th, 2012
3:33 pm

My mistake then and I’m sorry I had my information wrong. But do you really think suggesting places to live in a good community and offering a good future for the kids is wrong?

Hornets for Life

October 9th, 2012
3:34 pm

Take their banner away. Only way Milton could defeat Roswell in anything is by illegally recruiting athletes. What a shame.

LMAO

October 9th, 2012
3:38 pm

Wonder why Columbia BB, Miller Grove BB,Wheeler BB, Norcross BB, Buford FB, Stephenson FB and Grayson FB haven’t been caught yet?

Decaturs_Finest

October 9th, 2012
3:39 pm

All I hear on here is a bunch of whiners. Stop all the crying if a parent feel their child has a better chance of advancing their athletic career by transfering to a school with a great program then they should do it.

That Guy

October 9th, 2012
3:41 pm

Enter your comments here

That Guy

October 9th, 2012
3:41 pm

Horneys for life….Milton won 7 state championships last year, but nice try

Good Googly

October 9th, 2012
3:42 pm

Nothing new. Happens even at younger ages. Take a look at Cherokee County’s Sequoyah Jr Chiefs’ 7th-grade team. Champions last year … headed to championship this year. Why? Because of Cameron … a 7th grader (should be in 8th but held back a year) who was “transferred” with his whole family from Sandy Springs into a rental. Family gets all kinds of assistance and freebies as long as Cameron continues scoring 4-6 touchdowns every game … and he will.

YeaYea

October 9th, 2012
3:44 pm

@Decaturs_Finest As long as there is a legitimate move and contribution to the tax base from which that school draws…I have no issue. In the case of North Gwinnett, the players’ families live in Dekalb and Clayton counties leaving me and the other paying residents of Gwinnett county footing their bill.