I-Team: Ineligible players negate Armwood High School's 2011 undefeated football season

State probe was triggered by I-Team report

SEFFNER, Fla. -   Florida's governing body for interscholastic sports has stripped Armwood High School of its 2011 state high school football championship because the Hawks used ineligible players last year. While the team went undefeated that year, the record books will say otherwise.

"This is still a pretty tough pill to swallow. I mean, these kids won the state championship, and now, what was 15-0 is now 0-15," said Hillsborough County Schools spokesman Steve Hegarty.

Armwood will also forfeit 11 games from the previous season.

The investigation began with an ABC Action News I-Team report in November exposing players and parents who lied about where they lived so they could be eligible for the team.

The Florida High School Athletics Association handed out its penalties Tuesday afternoon. A spokesman for the Hillsborough County School Board said Armwood would not appeal.

"They have laid out all possibilities for appeal, but when you go back and look at the record, we agreed with much of what they said," said Hegarty.

The FHSAA is assessing the Seffner school a $6,200 fine and another $6,543 to cover the association's costs of investigating the alleged violations, according to documents released by the school board.

The total financial penalties for Armwood will be $12,743. Hegarty says the parents of ineligible students will have to pay about half of the costs. The school would be on the hook for the remainder, but school district officials say no taxpayer money will be used and the money will not come at the expense of other programs.

Under its rules, the association could have fined Armwood up to $195,000 for using players who hadn't made a full and complete move into the district from which the school draws students.  But the FHSAA lowered the penalty "as a result of the school's cooperation with the investigative process," according to a letter from the association to Armwood Principal Michael Ippolito, dated Tuesday.

The Armwood football program, under Head Coach Sean Callahan, also will be placed on administrative probation by the association for three years, through June 30, 2015.

The school could have appealed the proposed sanctions. But school board spokesman Stephen Hegarty said Tuesday that won't happen. The parents and students, however, do have the option to appeal the decision.

The school district says it will require more verification from parents and provide more oversight over student-athlete eligibility in the future.

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