I-Team: Armwood High School admits football players were ineligible

Team may be forced to forfeit championship

SEFFNER, Fla. - Armwood High School's principal has admitted to 16 of 19 student-athlete violations alleged by the Florida High School Athletic Association, a decision that will likely mean the revocation of their state football championship.

Armwood had been given 10 days to respond to the report by the FHSAA after an investigation found 19 violations.

The investigation initially began after an I-Team investigation in November which uncovered a football player and his family making false claims about where they lived so he could transfer to Armwood.

That led to an FHSAA investigation which found five players were lying about residency to get into the program. In some cases, families even had falsified energy bills to make it appear that the students lived in Armwood's area and were eligible to play.

In his response, Armwood principal Michael Ippolito admits that the five players were ineligible, but denies that two played during the 2010-2011 school year.  (He admits they played during the 2011-2012 school year.) Ippolito also denies that the football coaching staff had not been provided with the FHSAA guidelines on recruiting.

Ippolito also admits that two "representatives" of the school participated in falsifying player information, but he says they were parents of students and friends of parents, not Armwood employees.

Hillsborough County Public School officials say this was a case of parents lying to benefit their children, and there hasn't been any indication that Armwood coaches and staff were involved in wrongdoing. School board officials do not intend to fire or discipline any staff members.

However, the response does outline policy changes the school district is making to catch future violations, including requiring multiple forms of proof of residency for students athletes (driver's license forms, electric bills, etc.), submitting questionnaires to transfer students, and other measures.

"One of the many changes we're looking at is a district-wide committee that would look at student athletes that have eligibility issues," said Hillsborough County Public Schools spokesman Stephen Hegarty.

The FHSAA has 10 days to decide on Armwood's future.  School board officials tell the I-Team that with Armwood already admitting that some of their players are ineligible, they "wouldn't be surprised at all" if the football title is taken away. The school district does have the opportunity to appeal the FHSAA's decision.

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