IHSAA reverses decision, allowing Southport to play in boys basketball tournament

Coach Brand holds news conference Tuesday morning. (WTHR Photo/Rich Nye)

SOUTHPORT, Ind. (WTHR) — The IHSAA and Southport High School have reached an agreement on the punishment for IHSAA violations.

The IHSAA initially announced the school would be banned from playing in the boys' basketball state tournament.

Southport violated two rules:

  1. Southport High School Head Boys’ Basketball Coach Eric Brand has violated Rule 20‐1 of the IHSAA by‐laws by providing a tuition payment to Perry Township Schools in the amount of $5,548.00 on behalf of student Nickens Paul Lemba, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  2. Perry Township Schools accepted the tuition payment on behalf of Nickens Paul Lemba in order to remain compliant with U.S. immigration law and meet requirements of an F‐1 student. Rule 20‐1 says "the recruitment or attempted recruitment of a prospective student, through the use of undue influence is prohibited. Undue influence is the act of encouraging or inducing a prospective student to attend a school for athletic purposes." In Lemba's case, the tuition payment violated the IHSAA rule.

As a result, Southport suspended head coach Eric Brand for the first two games of the season. The IHSAA accepted that punishment and added others of their own.

  1. The Southport High School athletic department is placed on probation for 365 days. This probation is a severe type of warning. It is official notice that unacceptable and serious violations have occurred, are a matter of record and future, similar incidents will not be tolerated.
  2. The IHSAA accepts the suspension of Head Coach Eric Brand by Southport High School for the first two contests of the 2019‐20 season. The IHSAA wrote, "The suspension falls woefully short of the expectations of the IHSAA from its voluntary member school."
  3. Southport High School student Nickens Paul Lemba is declared ineligible for the 2019‐20 school year.
  4. Southport High School is hereby removed from the 2019‐20 IHSAA Boys’ Basketball Tournament Series.

Southport planned to appeal the tournament ban. The appeal was set for Wednesday afternoon, but it's been canceled after the two parties reached an agreement.

In a statement Wednesday morning, the IHSAA said both parties reviewed new information regarding the incident, and "in the spirit of compromise," the IHSAA would accept Brand's suspension through the end of the 2020 season, including the state tournament.

The school's athletic department will remain on probation for the year and Lemba is still ineligible for the season.

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