High School Basketball

KHSAA reduces penalties against Cordia basketball program

Cordia  basketball coach Rodrick Rhodes, center rear,  huddled with his team  before a home game against Knott County  Central High School in 2011.
Cordia basketball coach Rodrick Rhodes, center rear, huddled with his team before a home game against Knott County Central High School in 2011. John Flavell

Cordia will be allowed to play a limited boys' basketball schedule this regular season, but the Lions will be banned from postseason competition for the next two years.

That was the big news resulting from Cordia's appeal of sanctions imposed by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association after an investigation uncovered numerous violations by the small, public school in Knott County.

The penalties originally imposed on Cordia by KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett in July included a suspension of the boys' basketball program for the entire 2014-15 season and postseason, and the 2015-16 postseason; probation for the school's athletic program through the 2018-19 school year, and an aggregate fine of $25,980.

The KHSAA Board of Control heard testimony from both sides last month, then met Wednesday to decide whether to uphold the penalties or modify them.

After finding 17 of the 27 violations as fact, the board voted to uphold most of the sanctions, including the five-year probation and the fine.

However, it did lessen what was considered the harshest penalty — banning Cordia from playing at all this season. The board voted to allow the Lions to play a maximum of 15 regular-season games.

The board's actions might not be the end to the KHSAA/Cordia story, though.

Alice Whitaker, who as director of Lotts Creek Community School has a long-standing relationship with Cordia, said after Wednesday's meeting she will go to circuit court "immediately" to fight the KHSAA's decisions. "It's not a dead issue," she said.

Cordia Coach Rodrick Rhodes said he's committed to staying at Cordia, and that he will start putting together a schedule for his team, which currently has eight players.

"We'll have to make a decision on how we want to exercise those 15 games," he said, noting the Lions will consider using some of them to compete in the All "A" Classic.

Rhodes added that he wants his "kids to be able to play a whole season. So I'm really excited about getting this into circuit court."

Board members were unanimous in their opinion that Cordia's problems were exacerbated by what Woodford County superintendent Scott Hawkins called a "lack of institutional control and a pattern of non-compliance."

Cordia's violations ranged from recruiting, to providing illegal benefits to players, including free housing and airfare.

The board was split on whether to suspend Cordia from the entire 2014-15 boys' basketball season.

"I sympathize with the students in this situation," Floyd County superintendent Henry Webb said. "I would encourage us to think about not punishing the kids for the adults' mistakes."