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By Jesse Osbourne
Last week, The Lebanon Enterprise reported that Robert Spalding, Marion County High School girls’ basketball assistant coach, was suspended for two games after a Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) investigation.
A Freedom of Information Act request was sent to the KHSAA office to obtain any information regarding the investigation. That request has since been completed by the KHSAA.
On Thursday, The Enterprise received 11 pages of documents from the KHSAA outlining the investigation of the Marion County High School girls’ basketball program.
Not included in those 11 pages were the minutes from the Board of Control meeting on Oct. 18. According to a letter from the KHSAA, information from that meeting would not be available until the minutes were approved at the next meeting on Dec. 7.
However, during the Oct. 18 meeting, the board accepted Marion County High School’s terms of penalization from Spalding. The term included an in-service on KHSAA bylaws and case situations for all MCHS coaches, a one scrimmage and one regular season game suspension for Spalding and a revision of the MCHS coaches’ handbook to detail procedures regarding bylaws, specifically Bylaw 10 (involving recruiting and player contact).
However, the rest of the information received from the KHSAA outlines the allegations made by East Jessamine High School and the investigation that led to the suspension of Spalding.
In a letter from KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett to Marion County High School Athletic Director Stacey Hall after the investigation and penalization, Tackett said, “with this action by the Board of Control, this matter is considered closed.”
The investigation originated from an allegation by the East Jessamine High School girls’ basketball coaching staff that Marion County High School girls’ basketball coaches Anthony Epps and Spalding had made multiple illegal contacts with East Jessamine player Alexus Calhoun and her mother, Autria Calhoun.
According to the KHSAA, those alleged contacts were made in regards to playing AAU basketball and regarding the potential transfer of Calhoun to MCHS for the 2010-11 school year.
Calhoun played basketball as an eighth grader for East Jessamine High School. At the conclusion of the 2009-10 school year, she withdrew from the Jessamine County school system and enrolled at MCHS.
As part of the allegations, signed statements from East Jessamine Head Coach Jacqueline Coleman, Assistant Coach Lyndsey Robinson, and basketball parents Brian Mason and Jeff Underwood were provided alleging that conversations had taken place with the Calhoun’s in violation of Bylaw 10.
Coleman also provided the KHSAA a copy of a videotaped conversation she and Robinson had with Autria Calhoun on March 8, in regards to her moving back to Marion County. According to the KHSAA’s primary investigation report, Calhoun states in the video, “I have not talked to the coaches down there except for I talked to Anthony (Epps) and I talked to Boo-B (Robert Spalding). But nothing major. You know they want her to play on the AAU team that they got going down there.”
The initial investigation
During the investigation, statements and interviews were collected by the KHSAA from Coleman, Robinson, Mason, Underwood and Autria Calhoun.
According to the KHSAA documents, an affidavit dated June 15, stated that Coleman alleged that a conversation took place between Alexus Calhoun, Robinson and Coleman acknowledging Calhoun’s plans to move to Marion County, employment plans for Autria Calhoun at Marion County High School, contact with the Marion County coaching staff and contact between the MCHS coaching staff and Autria Calhoun.
Robinson alleged the same conversation with the same topics occurred in an affidavit dated on the same day.
According to the KHSAA, in an affidavit dated June 15, Underwood alleges that a conversation between himself and Autria Calhoun took place where Calhoun acknowledged contact with the Marion County coaching staff.
The KHSAA stated that in an interview conducted by the KHSAA staff with Autria Calhoun Sept. 1, she repeatedly denied any contact with the Marion County coaching staff with regards to basketball.
According to the KHSAA, after their initial investigation, Marion County High School was made aware of the allegations against them. The KHSAA then requested that Marion County perform an internal investigation of the allegations and to report the findings back to the KHSAA. That request was made on July 21.
Hall submitted a response on Aug. 10, that denied any wrongdoing or violations of Bylaw 10.
Included with Hall’s statement were signed statements from Autria Calhoun, Alexus Calhoun, David Hazelwood (friend of the Calhoun family), Epps, Spalding, Chris Begley (East Jessamine Middle School girls’ basketball head coach) and Jeanette Harrington (parent of an East Jessamine student). In the statements, the KHSAA outlined that Autria Calhoun states her reasons for moving to Marion County and denied that she ever stated that there had been any contact with the Marion County coaching staff in regards to basketball.
Alexus Calhoun denied ever stating that she had contact with the Marion County coaching staff.
Hazelwood stated his understanding of the reasons for the Calhoun’s move to Marion County.
Epps stated that the allegations by Robinson, Coleman, Mason and Underwood were not true. Epps denied ever sending text messages to Calhoun regarding basketball. He also denied any contact with Alexus Calhoun at basketball games.
According to the KHSAA, Spalding stated his opposition to any allegations but acknowledged talking with Autria Calhoun regarding playing AAU basketball.
Begley stated in an email of his understanding for Calhoun’s move to Marion County. Harrington did the same as Begley and summarized conversations that took place between herself and the coaching staff at East Jessamine.
The KHSAA states in its investigation that “competent evidence to support the allegations of recruiting is often difficult to obtain. This is, in part, due to the fact that many times the allegations center around rumors or talk in the community.”
The investigation also states “this seems to be the case as it relates to the allegations made by East Jessamine representatives that employment may have been secured for Autria Calhoun within Marion County High School.”
According to the KHSAA, “an offer of employment such as this could show evidence that this offer was a further enticement to move to Marion County. However, these allegations could not be substantiated.”
In fact, the KHSAA said Calhoun denied having any plans to be employed by MCHS and stated that she is currently employed at Maker’s Mark (in the Sept. 22 report).
The KHSAA did find substantial evidence that there was contact between the Marion County coaching staff and the Calhouns.
The report states that “competent evidence shows that contact occurred between Autria Calhoun and Epps on at least one occasion prior to Alexus Calhoun’s withdrawal from East Jessamine and enrollment at Marion County.”
The investigation also found, as was reported last week, that there was contact between Spalding and the Calhouns prior to enrollment at MCHS.
As stated in the primary investigation report, the KHSAA said the video of Calhoun admitting contact with the Marion County coaching staff is more credible than the written statements submitted by Calhoun and Epps.
According to the report, the video of Calhoun “was made a date closer in time to the alleged contact (than the written statements) and therefore a fresher and more accurate recollection of time.”
The report also said, “It is also worth noting that the video is essentially an admission of the contact, while the written statements are self-serving and defensive by their very nature.”
Based on that, the KHSAA determined the video statement to be more credible.
According to the KHSAA, it was conclusive that contact was made based on Spalding’s admission to the fact and Calhoun’s video statement.
The KHSAA said their investigation showed that Epps’ and Spalding’s contact with the Calhouns was in violation of Bylaw 10.
“The allegations made against these coaches included much broader and more systematic violations of Bylaw 10, including alleged promises of a starting position and repeated contact by text message between Epps and Ms. Calhoun that discuss how much playing time would be received upon transfer,” the report said.
The report added, “these broader allegations could not be substantiated beyond the East Jessamine coaches and parents.”
The KHSAA also had a statement for Marion County High School. “It is also disconcerting that there has essentially been complete refusal to admit to the contact or any wrongdoing,” the report said. “The Marion County coaching staff and Ms. Calhoun have been given the opportunity to clear up the record in regard to any inadvertent violation of Bylaw 10. The opportunity has gone untaken.”
The report went on to say, “While Robert Spalding has admitted to certain contact, the remainder of the parties continue to deny any contact whatsoever. However the evidence gathered during the course of this investigation clearly show that violations of Bylaw 10 have in fact occurred.”
In a letter from Hall to Tackett, Hall outlined the proposed resolutions to the illegal contact (listed above). Hall also listed the conclusions found by MCHS after reviewing the KHSAA’s findings and after discussion with Tackett.
Hall admitted that there was substantial proof that Spalding did talk to Alexus Calhoun about playing AAU ball with a team that had Marion County players on it.
He stated that Epps “did not mention anything about playing AAU as Coach Spalding had alluded to although video transcript stated that ‘they mentioned playing AAU’ it was only Coach Spalding who did mention it.”
In regards to Epps and Calhoun, Hall said both would swear under oath that Epps never mentioned AAU basketball.
In the letter, Hall pointed out that there was a technical violation of Bylaw 10 but not any deliberate violation of that bylaw by Spalding.
Hall said that Spalding should have told Ms. Calhoun to contact Hall after their conversation about AAU.
Hall closed the list of findings by stating that “all other accusations of Bylaw 10 by East Jessamine could not be substantiated.”
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association outlines Bylaw 10 as follows:
• A pupil (domestic or foreign) at any grade level shall not be recruited to a member school of the KHSAA for the purpose of participating in athletics, including recruitment under the guise of academics.
• Recruiting is defined as an act, on behalf of or the for the benefit of, a school, which attempts to influence a student to transfer to a member school for the purpose of participating in athletics. A school official utilizing an intermediary including a peer, another school employee, a student, a parent or a citizen, for the purposes of recruiting a student athlete should be in noncompliance.
• An athletic coach or any other member of the school staff shall not influence a student even if the student, his or her parents or any intermediary from another school makes the initial contact. In this situation, a coach or staff member (paid or unpaid) should immediately refer the person(s) to the school principal.
• Influencing a student shall include the promise or instilling the expectation of an athletic advantage, playing time, employment of the student or the student’s parents or relatives, housing for the student or the student’s parents, scholarships or financial aid for which other members of the student body are not generally eligible, or any other material or athletic reward for which other members of the student body are not generally eligible.
• Any representative of a member school knowingly allowing the recruitment of a student for the purpose of participating in athletics or who should have known of this recruitment shall be guilty of willful neglect of duty, misconduct, or breach of contract. This shall not apply only to coaches, but also to personnel supervising coaches, including an athletic director, an assistant principal, a principal, an assistant superintendent, a superintendent or a school board member. This requirement shall also apply to students or their parents.