FHSAA strips area football powerhouse Dwyer of 12 victories from 2011 for using ineligible player; School plans to appeal
Saturday, September 01, 2012
by Matt Porter
Dwyer High believes it took the proper steps to avoid trouble when it learned it had an ineligible football player. The Florida High School Athletics Association disagrees, and wants Dwyer to pay a hefty price.
The Palm Beach Post on Saturday obtained a letter sent by the FHSAA to Dwyer Principal Glenda Sheffield, stating the Palm Beach Gardens football powerhouse must forfeit its 2011 season, in which it went 12-2, and return the district and regional championships it won. Dwyer, No. 1 in the Post's preseason rankings, must also spend the 2012-13 school year on administrative probation.
Dwyer coach Jack Daniels said the school will appeal the FHSAA's ruling.
The decision is connected to Michael Dudeck, the former Forest Hill High teacher and assistant football coach who was arrested in July and charged with falsifying student transcripts while running a summer-hours tutoring program. One of the students who paid $300 to take part in Dudeck's program was Dwyer senior Onterio Rouse, a lineman who played in all of the Panthers' 2011 games.
In the letter, dated Aug. 30, FHSAA Executive Director Roger Dearing said Rouse provided a transcript to Dwyer indicating he had taken summer courses at Lake Worth Christian School. The courses raised his GPA above the 2.0 minimum required to participate in high school athletics. Based on that information, the letter stated, Dwyer illegally allowed Rouse to compete.
But Dwyer officials believe they did the right things.
Daniels said he became aware of Rouse's academic issues early in the summer of 2011, following his transfer from Palm Beach Gardens High to Dwyer. Daniels advised Rouse to improve his grades by taking summer courses. In the following weeks, Daniels said, Rouse informed him he was on track.
In Aug. 2011, Daniels said, a Dwyer guidance counselor informed him of a potential issue with Rouse's summer transcript, which bore a Lake Worth Christian logo. They showed the transcript to then-Principal Joseph Lee, who also questioned the document's construction.
"He said, 'It looks like it was cut-and-pasted,' " Daniels said.
Lee ruled Rouse ineligible, then contacted the Palm Beach County School District for further clarification.
"They said until we know if it's real or fake, err on the side of the child," said Lee, who in May was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Safety, Culture and Learning Environment. "We did the right thing. I think the district did the right thing."
A spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County School District declined to comment.
The FHSAA noted in its letter that Dwyer questioned the validity of Rouse's transcript, but faulted the school for playing him anyway.
Rouse, a 6-foot, 295-pound offensive guard and defensive tackle, helped Dwyer reach the Class 7A state semifinals, where it lost to Bradenton-Manatee. He was a Post All-Area honorable mention selection.
Dudeck, 55, was arrested July 24 and charged with two felony counts of falsifying documents and receiving unlawful compensation. His legal case is ongoing.
Rouse currently practices with Dwyer's football team but did not play in its kickoff classic loss at Miami Central or Friday's 30-9 win over Glades Central.
Dwyer self-reported the violation to the FHSAA on Aug. 2, which was noted by the FHSAA in its letter to the school. The state also noted Dudeck was not a representative of Dwyer's athletics department or its interests.
Dwyer's administrative probation, which lasts until June 1, 2013, is the least severe the FHSAA assesses and means any further violations committed in that time may result in greater penalties.
Daniels said the stripping of last season's wins diminishes his coaching record, "which I could care less about, anyway," he said, and added his players "know what we accomplished last season. That won't change."
Daniels said he would meet with Sheffield on Monday to discuss an appeal.
"We're going to fight it," Daniels said. "We're not going to take this."
Lee said he believed Rouse completed his summer work. He said he was glad to have played a part in taking down Dudeck, which "foiled a situation that apparently had been going on for years."
He also believes Rouse's family and others trusted Dudeck's summer school was legitimate.
"The biggest travesty is that there are people out there who take advantage of parents," Lee said. "They have big dreams for their kids. They think if their kid can get on the field, they'll play at Florida or Florida State and make a million dollars. This person is a predator, from my perspective. That's the sad part of this whole situation."