Emergency appeal denied as Tigers open season

School will meet with LHSAA in September

On the eve of last week’s home jamboree to kick off a 2018 football season eagerly anticipated and carrying high expectations, Hahnville found itself blasted with LHSAA sanctions and at the center of controversy.

Last Wednesday (Aug. 22), the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) informed the St. Charles Parish Public School district that it was ruling starting quarterback Andrew Robison ineligible for the entirety of his senior year, suspending head football coach Nick Saltaformaggio for four games and fining the school $2,500 as result of an investigation into allegations that school representatives recruited Robison while he was attending Vandebilt Catholic.

Robison, a highly touted passer and Division I collegiate prospect, transferred from Vandebilt to Hahnville earlier this summer.

Saltaformaggio’s suspension is set to begin Friday night on the road at West Jefferson, Hahnville’s season opener. The suspension would also sideline him for upcoming games against John Ehret, Brother Martin and the team’s district opener against rival Destrehan.

Hahnville confirmed that if the suspension is upheld by the LHSAA, Hahnville offensive coordinator and longtime Tigers assistant coach Mike Silva would serve as interim coach in Saltaformaggio’s absence.

Stevie Crovetto, St. Charles Parish Public Schools spokeswoman, said the school district filed an emergency appeal that would have been heard immediately by the LHSAA, but that it was denied. She said the school district will continue with an appeal and that will be heard on Sept. 13. She added the school has contacted legal counsel for assistance.

The Sept. 13 appeal would be heard after the first two Hahnville football games are played.

Crovetto said the alleged violations were reported to the LHSAA by “a private school where the student-athlete previously attended.” Robison was not specifically named by the school district — the names of student-athletes are redacted from public statements when violations are reported — but Robison and multiple other sources confirmed he is the student declared ineligible.

“As a school system with students’ best interests at heart, we feel that the sanctions issued by LHSAA are excessive and detrimental to the student-athlete, the football team, and entire school community,” Crovetto said on behalf of the district, adding that the sanctions cannot be taken lightly.

The suspension would effectively represent the end of Robison’s prep football career.

Saltaformaggio said he could not comment on the ruling in detail, but offered some answers on its impact after last week’s jamboree, in which the Tigers fell 10-7 to visiting Jesuit.

His emotions got the best of him when reflecting on what bringing the team out on the field meant to him that night —Hahnville’s players charged out on the field before the packed crowd at Tiger Stadium in an emotional scene, and in spite of the final score he said he was very proud at the high effort level his players showed following two days of upheaval.

“It was great bringing ‘em out here,” Saltaformaggio said with tears in his eyes. “This is Hahnville. We’re in an August jamboree in front of a packed stadium with a great student body. I’ll miss it the next four weeks, but we’ll be back and we’ll be fine because this is Hahnville … I’m getting a little emotional because I’m thinking about what I’ll be missing on those Friday nights. The students, our band, those fans. There’s not a lot of places like this. It’s special.”

Robison previously attended Vandebilt Catholic in Houma before transferring to Hahnville earlier this summer, making the move after the contract of his father, Drew Robison, was reportedly not renewed by the school. Drew Robison served as Vandebilt’s offensive coordinator for the past three seasons.

The quarterback passed for nearly 2,700 yards and threw more than 30 touchdown passes last season.

The LHSAA released it’s ruling to the public officially last Thursday night, citing Hahnville’s alleged violations were related to the following points of the association’s bylaws, under the section covering “illegal recruiting.”

*When a bona fide change of residence is made, the student shall be eligible at the LHSAA school of first choice in the attendance zone that the new residence is located. Under the residence and school transfers rule, when a bona fide change of residence is made, the student may remain at the LHSAA school he/she has been attending and shall retain his/her eligibility, if he/she has been in attendance at the school for at least one calendar year.

* Recruitment of students or attempted recruiting of students for athletic purposes, regardless of their residence, is a gross violation of the spirit and philosophy of these By-Laws and is expressly prohibited.

*“Athletic recruiting” is defined as the use of undue influence and/or special inducement by anyone connected directly or indirectly with an LHSAA school in an attempt to encourage, induce, pressure, urge or entice a prospective student of any age to transfer to or retain a student at a school for the purpose of participating in interscholastic athletics.

* Recruiting for athletic purposes is not only a violation by the student who has been recruited, but is also a violation by the school and/or the school personnel who recruited the student. It is a violation to recruit for athletic purposes regardless of a student’s age or grade level. If proof is established that a school has secured an athlete under any of the conditions set forth in this section, the principal shall be required to appear before the Executive Committee and the Executive Director to answer the allegations against his/her school and the student(s) is automatically ineligible to participate in athletics for at least one calendar year and may be ruled ineligible in the sports(s) not to exceed four calendar years.

* Other inducements or attempts to encourage a prospective student to attend a school for the purpose of participating in athletics, even when special remuneration/inducement is not given, shall be a violation. It shall be a violation for a school to offer and/or grant special favors, privileges or inducements of any kind including payment of fees to a student-athlete(s) under any circumstances not offered and/or granted to a non-student athlete(s) who attends the school.

After the ruling was announced, Vandebilt Catholic released a statement citing it’s belief that Robison shouldn’t be punished harshly and that the school has no opposition to the senior being able to participate in part or all of his final prep season.

“While Vandebilt Catholic supports the findings and decisions of the LHSAA, we find it troubling that a student-athlete was held to a higher standard than the coaches and adults to whom his care was entrusted,” the school said through the statement. “We believe the loss of an entire season is far too high of a price for decisions that this young man had no control over.”

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