Mount Douglas football program sanctioned, but not its volunteer coaches

The all-volunteer coaching staff of the defending B.C.-champion Mount Douglas Secondary Rams football team says it has been unfairly associated with the recruiting sanctions levied against the program.

It is particularly frustrating, they say, in light of the thousands of hours volunteered to help young athletes.

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“We have an outstanding coaching staff at Mount Douglas, and we are well aware of the recruiting policies,” said Rams head coach Mark Townsend, who has guided the squad to five B.C. Triple-A championships in eight years.

“There are no sanctions against any of our coaches, and that includes myself, and we have not been involved in any recruiting nor implicated in any allegations. It really is a school thing rather than a coach issue.”

The governing body agreed.

“This was not directed at a coach or player, but more at an institutional level,” said Jordan Abney, executive director of B.C. School Sports.

The Rams were sanctioned last week by B.C. School Sports for recruiting violations in its football program. Mount Douglas was fined $1,500 — “to be absorbed by the school and not passed on to student-athletes” — and put on probation for five years.

Any recruiting violations during that five-year probation period could result in a one-year suspension. No wins or championships will be vacated by the team.

The ruling summary against Mount Douglas, issued by B.C. School Sports, also says that the vice-principal in charge of athletics oversight and the athletic director are both required to attend the National Athletic Directors Conference, set for April 16-18 in Vancouver, and complete three Canadian Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association leadership training courses as specified by BCSS.

A complaint against Mount Douglas was filed by Belmont Secondary to B.C. School Sports, and upheld following a Mount Douglas appeal. The exact nature of the transgression was not specified in the ruling.

“We treated it as an internal matter and put it out as education that we take this issue seriously,” Abney said. “It is important to maintain the integrity of the school sports system.”

Abney said B.C. School Sports’ definition of recruiting revolves around whether there was “an enticement factor, undue influence or encouragement” to attend a particular school to play a sport.

Mount Douglas was co-operative throughout the process, said Abney.

Calls to Mount Douglas administration were referred to the Greater Victoria School District, which issued this statement: “We were aware of the allegation and co-operated fully with the B.C. School Sports investigation. The ruling was that ‘ … actions of school personnel violated the recruiting policy.’ While we accept the outcome, we do not agree with the findings.”

Abney stressed this was a recruiting case and not an eligibility case. “In a perfect world, kids would attend their local schools,” he said. But they don’t have to. The B.C. School Sports rules section on eligibility states: “BCSS recognizes the right of all student-athletes to choose which school they attend and which subjects they study.”

But a student-athlete must sit out a year if they transfer schools, from Grade 9 on, to play in that same sport at another school.

The Rams say they are looking ahead.

“On the field, we are pleased with the improvement of our team, which has been rewarded with wins in its last two conference games after a slow start,” said Townsend.

“This is largely different team from last year, with many new faces, but they are competing hard. We are looking forward to our upcoming battle with Carson Graham and its Air Raid offence Friday at Royal Athletic Park at 1 p.m.”

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