Prep Football Player Gets Caught in a Lie

(Tim Dunn - Tim Dunn/rgj)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Nevada high school football player who drew national attention after he claimed to have accepted a scholarship offer that never existed, yesterday admitted making up the entire story.

"I wanted to play [Division I] ball more than anything," Kevin Hart said in a statement released by the Lyon County School District. "When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I made up what I wanted to be reality. I am sorry for disappointing and embarrassing my family, coaches, Fernley High School, the involved universities and reporters covering the story."

Hart, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior lineman, announced at a school-wide assembly last Friday that he had accepted a scholarship offer from the University of California. Hours later, however, recruiting Web sites began questioning whether he ever received such an offer. Yesterday, the first day high school seniors could officially accept college football scholarships, national media -- including The Washington Post, ESPN and Sports Illustrated -- had picked up Hart's story.

Earlier this week, representatives of California and other schools that Hart had mentioned said they had never recruited the player. Meantime, the NCAA, the Lyon County sheriff's office and local school system opened investigations.

"It's unfortunate that a student-athlete would go through this, to fabricate something like this for reality, when we want athletes to work hard in the weight room and otherwise to get to a [high] level of competition," said Eddie Bonine, executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Athletics Association. "I'm shocked. The pressure is so much for an athlete to want to get to Division I to resort to this level of whatever you want to call it. It's a sad day for a student-athlete to have to do that."

Reached at home yesterday, Hart, 18, declined to comment.

"I'm not ready to talk about anything," he said politely before hanging up the phone. "I feel like I've embarrassed enough people so I'm not going to comment. Thank you for your time."

On Saturday, shortly after questions arose about the validity of the California scholarship offer, Hart filed a report at the sheriff's office alleging the involvement of a man posing as a recruiter according to Lyon County sheriff's lieutenant Mike Lange.

According to Bonine, Lyon County schools superintendent Nat Lommori met with Hart and school district officials yesterday. "At one point in the questioning he broke down and admitted to fabricating everything," Bonine said.

Lyon County sheriff's lieutenant Rob Hall said he still needs to meet with Hart to finish his investigation, which would then be forwarded to the Lyon County District Attorney's office to determine whether any criminal charges would be filed, including for filing a false report.

"If I had worked on this for two or three weeks and put in several hours of travel, several hours of interviews only to come to this same conclusion, then obviously there would probably be a greater chance of criminal consequences," Hall said. "Coming clean on his own will certainly helps him."

© 2008 The Washington Post Company