A Friendship Collegiate assistant football coach was placed on probation for a year Monday after the District of Columbia State Athletic Association found he violated state policy by influencing a student to transfer to the charter school for athletic purposes earlier this winter.
Documents released Monday spelled out the impropriety committed by Khenny Wonson, the director of football operations and assistant football coach at Friendship, namely two tweets Wonson sent out on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. In one of those tweets, he fashioned himself as an “AGGRESSIVE RECRUITER,” and on the following day, he welcomed an H.D. Woodson student to the school, according to the documents. A Wonson tweet sentFeb. 1 references H.D. Woodson defensive back D’Andre Payne as a new Friendship transfer.
According to documents, the H.D. Woodson student named in the tweet has since transfered back to the school. Payne, a first team All-Met with H.D. Woodson last fall, committed to Tennessee while enrolled at Friendship earlier this spring. Payne could not be reached to comment Monday.
Wonson was placed on one-year probation by the state athletic board for violation of code 5A DCMR, Chapter 27, Paragraph 2701.2, which states: “Neither a school nor a representative of a school shall seek to influence a student to transfer from one (1) school to another for the purpose of participating in interscholastic athletics.”
“We believe that there was a nexus between those two tweets that did violate the spirit of the rule,” DCSAA Athletic Director Clark Ray said. “There is no mention of ‘recruitment’ in the state rules . . . if you have coach that is tweeting: I love recruiting, recruiting is my job, I’m aggressively recruiting my next [player], while you sleep I’m recruiting, and then the very next day that same coach sends out a tweet that says welcome H.D. Woodson player (E) to Friendship, you’re now part of the family . . . I think you can draw a nexus between those two tweets.”
Friendship Collegiate finished the 2012 season 8-3 and won the inaugural DCSAA championship. Twenty seniors from that team earned college football scholarships and signed during a ceremony in February, which included three players who chose Maryland. The school boasts several high-profile rising senior recruits, including defensive back Jalen Tabor and running back Jonathan Haden.
The allegation of infractions by Wonson was brought to the attention of Ray by DCPS officials on May 8, just a day after Wilson High School had filed a formal complaint to DCSAA, alleging that Wonson was working to pry a player away from the school after taking the student-athlete to Maryland’s spring football game on April 12, in addition to interacting with the player on Twitter and inviting the athlete to Friendship workouts, documents show. Ray found insufficient evidence to support Wilson’s claim and dismissed the complaint Monday; he also dismissed additional complaints by DCPS that Wonson was inside McKinley Tech recruiting in December 2011, as well as influenced two former players at Dunbar to transfer to the school in 2012.
Friendship Collegiate Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim declined to comment when reached by telephone Monday, and a message left for Friendship CEO Patricia Brantley was not immediately returned. Wilson Athletic Director Mitch Gore and DCIAA Athletic Director Stephanie Evans also declined to comment.
“This is our first time that we’ve dealt with this issue since the state office has been created,” Ray said. “I think for us, it serves the purpose of letting all the member schools out there know that the state athletic office treats seriously any allegations that are put forward with information that could substantiate their claim . . . There will be a lot more scrutiny on Friendship Collegiate, on Coach Khenny within this next year, if anyone else can provide any credible information that it seems to be true after review that Coach Khenny or any other Friendship coach, football coach, has violated the rules of the you know, the DCMR 5A Chapter 27, then we could move to suspend Friendship’s membership in the state athletic association.”
Monday’s ruling comes on the heels of April’s proposal by the DCSAA to limit transfers between schools in the District, forcing students to sit out a year after changing schools. That proposal process is still ongoing, Ray said.