Have Mercy For the Veribest ISD Lady Falcons
SAN ANGELO, TX – The members of the District 11-1A Division 1 Executive Committee were summoned today for a hearing involving the Veribest Lady Falcons Basketball Team. The school district was accused of allowing their athletic booster club pay the fees for the student athletes to attend summer camp, enhancing their girl's basketball team capabilities. This was against UIL rules.
As 2019 was coming to an end, schools across the Concho Valley received an anonymous letter accusing the Veribest Lady Falcons of cheating. Here is the exclusive look at that letter:
Above: Anonymous letter sent to area school districts accusing Veribest ISD of breaking UIL rules.
The allegation was that the school's booster and fundraising program, Falcon Fundraising, paid for Veribest student athletes to attend a summer basketball camp at Lubbock Christian University. If true, the Lady Falcons violated section 441.a.3 of the University Interscholastic League policy. Booster clubs are forbidden from paying for non-school activities for athletes.
Today's meeting began with the roll call. In the room were superintendents from public school districts in Sterling City, Miles, Robert Lee, Water Valley, Irion County, and the Superintendent of Bronte, who led the hearing. The accused, Superintendent of Veribest Ryder Appleton, also brought his new athletic director, Denise Richards, who aided Veribest ISD in his own investigation.
Above: Veribest ISD Superintendent Ryder Appelton (left) addresses the district committee following allegations of UIL violations. (LIVE! Photo/Manny Diaz)
After a presentation of a packet with over 40 pages of bank statements and other documents, the story began to unfold. It all started three years ago when the Veribest volleyball team decided to participate in a summer team camp. The team raised money through fundraising using the school's booster club. They raised enough money and the team went to the camp. This was before the rule change at the UIL that forbid athletic booster clubs to pay for non-school activities. At the time, Richards wasn't the Athletic Director but instead the head girls' volleyball team coach.
Richards told the panel that after the rule change, the volleyball team changed the way they fundraised for summer camp. Instead of running money through the booster club, a parent from each grade level volunteered to manage the contributions. The goal was to fund all Veribest student athletes to attend these summer camps without the school's involvement.
WATCH: Highlights of the committee meeting:
In April, San Angelo LIVE! reported that the Veribest head girl's basketball coach and athletic director, Jim Eubank, resigned suddenly after a 23-7 record and a Cinderella season. Not many fans or sports writers thought Veribest could win that deep into the playoff bracket and Eubank's departure stunned many. With Eubank's sudden departure, Veribest ISD was also out of an athletic director. This left a giant hole for the next AD to not know the rule existed, claimed Appleton and Richards.
During this time period, the girls basketball team worked in the Veribest Booster Club's concession stands at Veribest events and earned roughly $10 an hour. This helped the team earn enough money and attend the LCU team camp in the summer of 2019.
After the explanation, the panel debated about the gray area in the rule. The primary gray area is that since the girls earned the money by working, the student athletes were not accepting or receiving any gift from the boosters. After two-and-a-half hours and all the information presented, the Committee made their decision.
The committee voted unanimously that Veribest ISD violated Section 441.a.3. But their punishment was only a verbal reprimand.
The reasoning for the low punishment was that the district's ignorance of the rule occurred because of staff turnover. Some Superintendents stated that this case was like nothing any had seen before.
Superintendent Appleton stated afterwards that they will not be seeking an appeal.
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