The Louisiana High School Athletic Association door has effectively closed the door on the Hahnville athletic career of senior quarterback Andrew Robison before it ever began, as the governing body ruled to uphold its late August ruling concerning alleged violations by Hahnville High School.
That news officially came today after the LHSAA held an appeals hearing for Robison and Hahnville head coach Nick Saltaformaggio, who was suspended for the first four games of the season for violations tied to the alleged recruitment of Robison, a standout passer who transferred from Vandebilt Catholic to Hahnville earlier this year. Robison was declared ineligible to participate in any athletic events at Hahnville for the 2017-18 school year.
The LHSAA ruled that the sanctions will stand, and that Robison would only be permitted to play again if he returns to Vandebilt Catholic and moves back into the school’s district, with an LHSAA spokesman saying “students should always have a place to be eligible” and that Robison’s option would be to return to VCHS.
After the ruling was announced, Robison — seated next to his tearful mother, Coyler — asked how he could ever be expected to ever return to VCHS given the contentious nature of his departure, and that the family didn’t have the money to pay for his tuition there even if that were an option.
According to a report by NOLA.com reporter Jim Derry, the LHSAA denied the appeal after an executive session and after hearing testimony from Robison, Saltaformaggio, HHS principal Brian Lumar and Robison’s parents.
Robison transferred to Hahnville after Vandebilt Catholic chose to not renew the contract of his father, Drew, who was an assistant coach with the VCHS football team and the school’s head basketball coach.
According to Derry, Robison told the committee that VCHS coach Jeremy Atwell pulled him out of classes on a daily basis and that the coach was verbally abusive toward him. He also said the coach promised to “make sure (Robison) will never be eligible at Hahnville” and that Atwell told him after the transfer “I hope your team has a terrible season so I can say ‘I told you so.’” and that this would hurt his college recruitment.
“I don’t take any pleasure saying any of this about my former coach, but I feel you need to know the whole truth,” Robison said to the committee.
Robison’s mother told the committee that with the loss of half of their household’s income, keeping Robison enrolled at a Catholic school was not an option. She also said the environment around the family’s former Houma home became hostile and that the family was warned “not to speed in town” following what was apparently a contentious separation between Robison’s father and the school.
One of the central violations noted in Vandebilt Catholic’s complaint to the LHSAA was that Robison wore a Hahnville jersey for a photo shoot for the cover of a prep football magazine. Robison reportedly told the committee he asked Atwell if he could wear his Vandebilt jersey out of respect for the school and the situation, and that Atwell denied him by saying it wouldn’t be fair to Atwell. Robison said he got the jersey from Hahnville senior Jha’Quan Jackson. He reportedly added that after his last exam at Vandebilt, he found the lock cut off his locker and “several hundred dollars of his personal equipment” gone. He said Atwell told him that “maybe the janitor did it” and that he later saw other VCHS players wearing his things.
Coyler Robison asked for another vote, which was denied.
Robison reportedly asked through tears, “What do you suggest I should have done differently?” and asked the committee to overturn the suspension of Saltaformaggio, who he said does things the right way and didn’t deserve to have his reputation damaged, Derry reported.
“Do you know what their coach said to me? … I can’t go back to that school, we don’t have the money,” Andrew said.
Lumar reportedly played a recording he said was of Vandebilt Principal Jeremy Gueldner saying he wanted to “make a deal” with Robison. Lumar also called the idea laughable that Robison’s father was promised a job at the school prior to the transfer.
St. Charles Parish Public Schools released a statement following the appeal expressing its disappointment in the ruling.
“Today is not only a disappointing day for Hahnville High School, Andrew Robison and the entire Hahnville community, but it’s a sad day for high school sports across the state of Louisiana,” said school district spokeswoman Stevie Crovetto. “The school is dismayed at the LHSAA Executive Committee’s decision to uphold the Executive Director’s original ruling that resulted in penalties against Andrew, Coach Saltaformaggio, and the school. The facts presented to the LHSAA’s Executive Committee at today’s appeal showed the ruling was based on assumption without fact or merit.
“This has left a senior student-athlete distraught and heartbroken without the hope of playing football during his senior year. This is an injustice and goes against everything LHSAA claims it stands for in its constitution which states that the LHSAA is ‘vitally interested in the welfare of every boy and girl participating in its athletic contests.’ This committee has overturned or reduced penalties for actions far more egregious than the conduct at issue in this case. We are disappointed by today’s decision and are considering all options available to us, including arbitration.”