By Mike Fields
Lexington Herald Leader
After an almost yearlong investigation, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association has lowered the boom on the Cordia boys’ basketball program, severely penalizing the small school in Knott County for a laundry list of violations.
The sanctions against Cordia include a ban on playing any boys’ basketball games during the 2014-15 regular season or postseason, and the 2015-16 postseason.
Cordia also was assessed fines totaling almost $26,000.
KHSAA commissioner Julian Tackett said in a news release that Cordia’s violations during the past few years indicated the school’s lack of institutional control and illustrated “the most wanton and blatant disregard for association rules in its 97-year history.”
Former University of Kentucky player Rodrick Rhodes has been Cordia’s coach the past three years, and he built the Lions into a strong program with transfers from inside and outside the state.
The KHSAA’s sanctions include the suspension of two members of the Cordia coaching staff for the 2014-15 season. It was unclear whether Rhodes was one of the coaches facing suspension.
When the Herald-Leader contacted Rhodes a few months ago when rumors were circulating that he was leaving Cordia, he replied via text message that he was staying put.
The Herald-Leader tried unsuccessfully Monday night to reach Rhodes and Cordia athletics director Cavanaugh Trent for comment.
Tackett noted that participation in high school sports is a “privilege and not a right. This is an important distinction. With this privilege comes responsibility.”
He said a common theme in Cordia’s disregard for KHSAA rules was the use of ineligible student-athletes.
Cordia’s violations as listed by the KHSAA:
■ Falsifying records, or maintaining inaccurate records with regards to living arrangements of transferring student-athletes.
■ Allowing a staff member to lease housing to the family of a student-athlete without ever receiving payment.
■ Impermissible contact with multiple student-athletes with the intent to sway them to enroll at Cordia for the purpose of competing in athletics.
■ Providing free transportation to relocate a student from an out-of-state school.
■ Providing plane tickets on two occasions to a student-athlete so he could travel out of state.
■ Facilitating housing for a student-athlete at no cost to him or his family.
■ Providing money and clothes to student-athletes.
■ Conducting tryouts for nonenrolled students.
■ Paying the entire cost of education for two students on an F-1 exchange visa to attend Cordia.
■ Providing housing to numerous students who participated on the boys’ basketball team, as well as housing for their families.
■ Allowing ineligible players to practice and compete in contests before they were cleared to participate.
■ Requiring players to attend practice before the official (Oct. 15) start of preseason practice, and disciplining students who missed those sessions.
■ Holding “open gym” practices that were limited to the boys’ basketball team and thus mandatory, following the elimination from the post-season.
■ Failing to properly monitor the coaching requirements for individuals coaching in the boys’ basketball program.
Cordia, which had a 23-9 record last season, also must forfeit all of those victories for using at least one ineligible player in all those games.
The KHSAA will allow Cordia’s boys’ basketball players with eligibility remaining to transfer without penalty to other schools.
Cordia has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the KHSAA Board of Control.
Cordia was in the headlines last winter when two of its transfer players, who were ruled ineligible by the KHSAA before the season, went to court in late January and won an injunction that allowed them to play.
Richard Chapman Jr. of Newark, N.J., and Josh Ortiz of Harlem, N.Y., suited up for the second round of the Touchstone Energy All “A: Classic in Frankfort. Cordia reached the finals of that small school state tournament before losing to Newport Central Catholic.
A few weeks later, Chapman punched Perry County Central player Justin Johnson during a game. Chapman was ejected and suspended for two games.
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.