The Florida High School Athletic Association announced Monday that Lakewood Ranch High football coach Rashad West is suspended six games — two exhibition games and four regular-season games — for self-reported violations of the organization's recruiting rules.
The FHSAA sent the school a letter Monday stating the results of an investigation into the violations. The letter said Lincoln Memorial Academy in Palmetto asked Lakewood Ranch to host its football team for a visit. That visit took place June 29 with West talking to approximately 30 Lincoln players about what it takes to succeed at the high school level and showing them the school's weight room. According to the FHSAA's findings, neither Lakewood Ranch athletic director Kent Ringquist nor principal Dustin Dahlquist were aware of the visit before it took place.
The FHSAA ruled that the visit violated the following FHSAA Policies:
- Policy 36.1.1: "Athletic recruiting is a gross violation of the spirit and philosophy of educational athletics. Athletic recruiting is unethical and unsporting conduct, and is forbidden by FHSAA Bylaws (FHSAA Bylaw 6.3)."
- Policy 37.1.1: "No school employee, athletic department staff member, representative of the school’s athletic interests or third parties, such as an independent person, business or organization, may make contact, either in person or through any form of written or electronic communication or through any third party, with a student, or any member of the student’s family, in an effort to pressure, urge or entice the student to attend a different school for the purpose of participating in interscholastic athletics."
- Policy 18.104.22.168: "Visiting or entertaining the student or any member of his/her family in an attempt to pressure, urge or entice the student to attend a different school to participate in interscholastic athletics."
- Policy 22.214.171.124: "Making a presentation or distributing any form of advertisement, commercial or material that promotes primarily or exclusively a school’s athletic program or implies a school’s athletic program is better than the athletic program of any other school or suggests that the student’s athletic career would be better served by attending a different school."
Per the letter, West's six-game suspension includes the 2020 spring game and the 2021 Fall Classic (preseason) game, plus four regular-season games. West is also ordered to forfeit $5,000 of his salary, and the school itself is ordered to pay a $2,500 fine. Lakewood Ranch will also be under administrative probation until June 30, 2021.
Lakewood Ranch is not alone in its punishments. Manatee and Palmetto high schools also face discipline for hosting Lincoln Memorial Academy players on their campuses, with their head coaches (Yusuf Shakur and Dave Marino, respectively) receiving eight-game suspensions among other punishments.
In a separate release, the School District of Manatee County said the district has disseminated guidance to all Manatee County middle schools outlining appropriate contact between high school coaches and middle school student athletes in light of the FHSAA's announcement. The district is also requiring all paid coaches to attend an in-service training presented by the Positive Coaching Alliance that focuses on team and school culture and will include a presentation on FHSAA compliance.
“The School District of Manatee County has a storied history in high school football and in all areas of athletics,” District Supervisor of Athletics Jason Montgomery said in the release. “A big part of that history is maintaining the integrity of our programs and abiding by the rules. With over 4,000 student athletes and more than 400 coaches participating in our athletic programs this school year alone, our commitment to the integrity of our athletic programs remains resolute and ultimately led to the self-reporting that resulted in today’s announcement.”
Mike Barber, the district's communications director, said that Montgomery and the district are working with each school to determine if it will appeal part of or all of the FHSAA's sanctions.
"It's a bit of an unprecedented time for everyone, but I don't think it will take long to determine what would be appealed (within each school's sanctions)," Barber said.
West led the Mustangs to a 6-3 record in 2019, his first season at the school. It was the first time the program reached six wins since 2014.