Curtis coaches say they did the right thing, despite LHSAA ruling that strips title

Curtis coaches say they did the right thing, despite LHSAA ruling that strips title

(WVUE) - John Curtis Christian School must return its 2013 State Championship trophy and vacate 28 wins after a Louisiana High School Athletics Association ruling Wednesday afternoon.

The ruling was a decision on an appeal that ordered the school to vacate all of its wins from 2013-2015, when former offensive lineman Willie Allen played for the Patriots. It includes the 2013 State Championship.

Earlier this year, the LHSAA decided Willie Allen and the Patriots broke rules while he was a player at the school because he lived with an assistant coach for three seasons.

Allen, who began his career at John Curtis in the eighth grade, was taking a streetcar and then a bus to school and would often arrive late, even after leaving early in the morning.

Coach Jerry Godfrey noticed his player wasn't getting to school on time and offered him a place to stay during the fall camp because of the early start to training, but that's when he said Allen asked if he could stay.

"He said to me, he said, 'Coach, I feel safe and I feel great here,' and I said, 'Okay,' and I said, 'Well do you want to stay?' and he said, 'Yeah,' and I said, 'We gotta call your mom, we gotta check and see if everything is okay with your mom,'" Godfrey said.

So Allen started living with Godfrey for his final three years in school, but that's where LHSAA officials say he violated rules designed to prevent unfair recruitment and retainment.

The rules are designed to prevent teams from offering unfair advantages to recruit players and to convince them to stay with the team, but head Coach J.T. Cutis contends Allen was never leaving his school.

"He would have caught that bus to school every day, and had to be leaving at 5:30 in the morning every day to get here, and that's what he testified to. He said I was coming to school no matter what," Curtis said.

On Wednesday, Coach Curtis, Coach Godfrey and Allen sat before the LHSAA in hopes of overturning the ruling, but Curtis said he thinks their decision was a foregone conclusion.

"What he did, did not violate the rules. They made presumptions and assumptions, and that's not how it should have been decided. It should have been decided on the facts, and the fact of the matter is - number one, he was not recruited, he was a student here just like any other student for a year and a half; number two, he was never leaving John Curtis under any circumstance. He testified to that, they ignored it," Curtis said.

Doug Sunseri, a sports law expert, said the ruling came down likely because the LHSAA has to walk a political tightrope between private and public schools.

"One of the ways, historically, to keep the public schools happy is to maybe beat up a little bit on the private schools, especially the ones who are excelling," Sunseri said.

He argued it's difficult for schools to fight rulings, because the LHSAA is a private entity that does not have to follow due process.

"Since the LHSAA is the sole interpreter, arbitrator, on how to interpret these rules, it can basically tell schools how they're going to apply it and the schools don't have a lot of push back," Sunseri said.

Still, both Curtis and Godfrey said they likely wouldn't change anything, adding they felt they did what was right and what was best for Allen.

"If a boy shows up tonight and he needs a bed to sleep in, he's gonna have a bed to sleep in," Godfrey said. "I'm not going to - my wife and I are not going to change what we do.".

Curtis said the school will attempt to enter neutral arbitration in an effort to retain the wins and championship.

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