Column: HHS ruling displays sad state of affairs

If nothing changes, Andrew Robison’s high school playing career appears to be over after the Louisiana High School Athletic Association last week upheld its ruling to declare him ineligible as result of recruiting accusations by his former school, Vandebilt Catholic, toward Robison’s current school, Hahnville. Hahnville head football coach Nick Saltaformaggio is still suspended four games as well. And the whole thing smells rotten.

A few weeks ago, I penned a column for this space questioning why Robison and Saltaformaggio were punished so harshly. I did my best to remain measured in my criticism and wanted to make clear I could only comment on the information publically available. Maybe there wasn’t something I was considering … I was open to the possibility.

It’s hard to fathom it’s anything short of spite, at least on the part of Vandebilt.

Following the ruling, Robison asked LHSAA representatives a very relevant question that went unanswered by the LHSAA representatives: what could he have done differently throughout this process? Nobody had an answer. I spoke with Robison this week, and he said one still had not been provided to him.

So many things burn me about this whole situation. Take the jersey fiasco that seems to be in large part at the heart of this matter. Vandebilt head football coach Jeremy Atwell apparently admitted to LHSAA investigators he indeed told Robison he would not be permitted to wear his Vandebilt Catholic jersey to a photo shoot to be on the cover of a prep football magazine. His logic was there would be no point because Robison was leaving anyway. Robison wanted to be featured for his accomplishments. He was going to Hahnville. He asked for and received a Hahnville jersey. Vandebilt later reported the situation, with the jersey being highlighted as a potential inducement for Robison to attend Hahnville.

Let me follow this … a student is leaving a school … a coach says he won’t give you a jersey because you’re leaving anyway … that option gone, the student asks for the jersey from his destination school, Hahnville … the jersey is then cited as something that lured the player away from Vandebilt and to Hahnville.

Were rules broken here? It does appear so. But this is a case where the spirit of a law is being ignored while the letter of the law is being abused.

Vandebilt Catholic did not renew the contract of Robison’s father, Drew, an assistant football coach and Vandebilt’s head basketball coach. A family would be hard pressed to put that aside and continue to pay tuition to send a student to that school even before considering the added financial difficulty of losing half a household’s income. It appears all parties – Vandebilt Catholic included – knew Robison was heading elsewhere before any supposed recruiting infraction occurred.

Heck, if Hahnville did recruit him (and I don’t believe it did) … why does Vandebilt Catholic care? What would it have to gain from the “justice” it seeks for that crime?

Did Coach Atwell believe Robison’s presence on the cover would somehow embarrass him? Is the current situation not so much more embarrassing?

Vandebilt Catholic’s “recruitment” argument appears to hinge completely on expecting everyone to believe Robison was ever, in any universe, going to stay at their school after it decided to end its employment of his father.

The LHSAA can cite “a rule is a rule” all it wants to, but it’s just enabled one of its schools to send a clear message that if you ever even make yourself available to one of its players as an alternative, it may just look for any technicality it can in an attempt to ruin you.

Maybe the LHSAA indeed weighed all of its options here. But the feeling that appeal hearing put forth was one that, at least in my mind and I know that of others I’ve spoken to, the decision was made before anyone even spoke last Thursday. I know so many good people with the St. Charles Parish school district worked tirelessly to present the case of a young man who simply wants to continue pursuing his passion, and to protect him from being railroaded. I commend you. I simply don’t believe there was anything you could have done.

To me, the whole thing is laughable.

Robison still has hope he’ll be able to play again. Perhaps arbitration or other legal recourse will turn things in his favor.

But, in the meantime, if there’s any solace that one could take from all of this, it’s this: by all accounts, this is a young man with incredible drive and love for what he does. When I spoke with him, I could see it. This won’t be the ultimate end of his playing career.

So when Andrew Robison is playing on Saturday in the coming years, he will indeed laugh last. And loudest.

3 Comments

  1. Thanks for a great article. The issue is the wearing of the jersey, but there should be a paper trail to shows when the family sought residence in St Charles Parish indicating they were moving to HHS service area. There should be a paper trail that shows when the HHS office was contacted for admission and a request for records from Vanderbilt. If all this took place prior to the wearing of the jersey, then there is NO violation of LHSAA rules. It sounds to me that we have a group of individuals who made a mistake and did not have the courage that they arrived at the wrong decision. Even if they insist on the punitive action, they did not have to take the entire season away from this student.

  2. what if we had a good senior quarterback? Would he had transferred to Hahnville? We needed a quarterback and tried to get one. It didn’t work out.

  3. It’s interesting the parallel between what I’ve been following in the national news and the “We don’t care about important evidence” organization known as the LHSAA. Such a disgrace to this state.

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