Don McCool, Mount Vernon's basketball coach, said yesterday he was "very disappointed and shocked" at the Virginia High School League's decision to place his school on probation and bar the boys basketball team from district, regional or state playoffs next season.
Thomas Hyer, Mount Vernon's principal, said he has appealed the decision and will go to court, if necessary.
McCool, for 10 years one of the most successful coaches in Northern Virginia, was visibly upset following the three-member panel's decision Monday evening. T.C. Williams High had charged Mount Vernon with recruiting seven athletes from nearby Alexandria, a violation of VHSL rules.
"I've never recruited anyone and I've never told anyone to do it," McCool said yesterday. "I think we were punished unfairly, without any real proof. I have faith justice was not served in this case. I hate something like this to happen to the kids."
"We definitely have appealed," Hyer said. "My check ($200 appeal fee) went to the league office this morning. The appeal is a process provided by the league office and we want to explore every avenue. I'm optimistic, but we may not get any satisfaction until we go to court."
The VSHL has two appeals procedures: in the first, an appeal goes to a committee established by the league office; in the second, it goes straight to the league executive committee. The VHSL has upheld very few appeals in its 30-plus years. Still, McCool said he is optimistic.
"I'm not saying we can't win," he said. "We'll wait and see. This has been a terrible strain on me and my family the last few months. I'm sure this decision will affect me and the players next year. Not being able to win a championship definitely has to bother the seniors.
"Since we won our state championship (1980), I saw the influx of transfers coming in," McCool said. "We tried awfully hard to be careful with transfers."
Hyer said he had absolute faith in McCool and in his coaching staff, and didn't plan any changes next year. But according to Hyer, Charles Scudder, an assistant coach, is not planning to return next year. Several athletes claimed Scudder tried to influence them to transfer.
McCool said he could not comment on who would work with him next year.
Despite the news of the probation, it was business as usual at Mount Vernon yesterday.
Most students interviewed said they either hadn't heard the news or had little interest. One student, who said he was on the football team, said the decision "probably wasn't fair, but at least they (VHSL) didn't jump on the other sports."
There was no celebrating at Williams. The only subject most students and teachers there talked about was the official introduction of Glenn Furman, who replaced Paul Hines as football coach. Hines had been fired.
In an unrelated incident, Don Rivere, athletic director at Williams, said he was waiting for the VHSL to rule on the status of track star Andrea Cross, a freshman. Her legal residency has been questioned and there is a possibility she will be declared ineligible for the past season.
If so, any points she won individually or as part of a relay team will be taken away. Williams, which barely won the girls Northern District and the regional titles, could have both championships taken away.
"I'm waiting on a call on the young lady now," Rivere said. "She moved in from the Mount Vernon area, but this has nothing at all to do with the other situation. This was just a mix-up."