CIAC levies punishments on NHS, football program

Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Board of Control Chair Robert Hale, Jr., left, and Vice Chair Steve Wysowski look over a report on Naugatuck High football recruiting violations during the board’s meeting Thursday in Cheshire. The board imposed a $7,500 fine on Naugatuck High and put the football program on probation for two years. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

CHESHIRE — The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Board of Control imposed a $7,500 fine on Naugatuck High School and put the football program on probation for two years for recruiting violations involving three football players at Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury.

“We’ll comply with the rulings and pay the necessary fine and try to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future,” said Naugatuck Board of Education Chair David Heller after learning of the penalties.

The violations stem from the actions of former Naugatuck head football coach Rob Plasky, who resigned Aug. 24 after being placed on suspension by the school, and Acting Director of the Naugatuck High School Football Alumni Association Franklin Johnson.

An investigative report into the violations, conducted by borough attorney Edward “Ned” Fitzpatrick on behalf on the school board, found that Plasky paid $355 for Javon Martin, David Coggins, and Xavier Woods, who all attend Sacred Heart, to go to a Central Connecticut State University football camp this summer. The report also states that Johnson wrote a check from the alumni association for $1,000 to Meme Martin, the mother of Javon Martin and guardian of Coggins. The money was used to help pay outstanding tuition bills at Sacred Heart.

Javon Martin and Coggins were seeking to transfer to Naugatuck High but Sacred Heart would not release the students’ transcripts or let them take final exams until the tuition was paid.

According to the report, Meme Martin, said her personal and family life was breaking down and that she had no other family to turn to, so she looked to Plasky for support. Plasky set up a meeting with Meme Martin, himself, and Johnson at which Johnson wrote the check.

“Contextually, it is worth noting that the three parties involved in this transaction all expressed that they felt very good about what had transpired and that a good deed was being done for a family in dire need,” the report states.

It wasn’t until Johnson read comments on a blog about the students transferring that he realized violations might have occurred. Johnson took his concerns to Plasky and the two told Naugatuck High Athletic Director Tom Pompei what happened. Pompei immediately informed Naugatuck High Principal Janice Saam and the administration initiated the investigation.

Aside from the two payments, Plaksy committed a third violation by having undue influence and contact with Meme Martin and the students the CIAC ruled. Each violation could have faced a penalty of $10,000 if the Board of Control deemed necessary. However, the fact that Naugatuck self-reported the incident and conducted the investigation itself helped to mitigate the punishment.

“To me the way this case came to us makes a difference,” said Robert Hale Jr., chair of the Board of Control at its meeting Thursday.

Hale said, in his opinion, once the incident was reported to Pompei the school handled the situation professionally and did their job well at that point.

“I was frankly impressed that the school system took this seriously to engage [Fitzpatrick] and do this report,” Hale said.

The outcome could have been worse for the football team.

Paul Hoey, CIAC associate executive director, said CIAC officials had discussed the possibility of issuing a postseason ban for the football team. He said that recommendation was not moved forward because the players had no involvement in the situation and Plasky resigned.

Hoey described the two-year probation, which runs through Sept. 20, 2014, as a warning. If the football program commits another violation in that time, it could face a ban.

“I think the sanctions are appropriate,” said Steve Wysowski, principal of Bristol Eastern High School and vice chair of the Board of Control.

Heller said the board appreciates that the CIAC didn’t levy any penalties that would have impacted the students.

At the moment, he said, the board isn’t sure how it will pay the $7,500 fine.

“I’m not sure how we’ll pay the fine and where the money will come from,” Heller said. “But, we’ll get to work on that.”

In addition to the fine and probation, the Board of Control ruled the school board has to implement the four recommendations put forth in Fitzpatrick’s report, including the district require all booster club officers and directors to attend seasonal in-house training and information sessions as well as all booster clubs connected with high school sports must account for all income and expenses to the central treasury at the high school in an account maintained by the high school principal.

The board also has to develop clear written policies to govern what booster clubs can do with funds.

Heller said the board has already started to implement the recommendations and are working to develop a policy for booster clubs.

“We’re trying to make the best of a bad situation and will work hard to make sure situations like this don’t reoccur,” Heller said.

After ruling on the punishment for Naugatuck High, the Board of Control also ruled that Coggins, Javon Martin and Woods are ineligible to play for the first four games of this football season.

Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson and Saam could not be reached for comment as of this post.