Kofa athletic director says decision was "right on"
Last week, Kofa was in the midst of battling for a second straight Gila Valley Region boys basketball title.
This week, the Kings are looking for their first.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board ruled that the Kings must vacate their wins that 22-year-old Anthony Avalos played in last season. According to court documents from when the case broke in November, Avalos forged a birth certificate so he could play basketball for the Kings. Avalos was arrested then on charges of forgery and sexual conduct with a minor after pretending to be a student at both Kofa and Vista Alternative School.
The win gives the region title to Yuma High, which had a senior-laden roster last year and has struggled to a 1-10 record this year with a younger team and new coach this year.
The school was also placed on advisement for one year. According to AIA Chief Operations Officer Chuck Schmidt, advisement is the lowest sanction that can be applied to a school. Other punishments including a warning, followed by probation, and then the "death penalty" - being kicked out of the AIA.
Kofa athletic director Frank Garcia - who along with coach Danillo Montialli said they were misled by Avalos from the start - said he had no qualms with the decision.
"I thought it was right on," Garcia said. "They made the decision we felt, the school felt, they were going to make. ... Sometimes things are beyond your control."
Montialli said the situation was an unfortunate one, but like Garcia said he understands the decision made by the AIA.
"Of course it is behind us," Montialli said. "We are always going to have a taste in our mouth. We worked very hard. The kids worked hard, the coaches worked hard. ... It does hurt losing the title but it was right thing to do by AIA. We just have to deal with it look and we look forward to wrapping up this season on top as we did last year."
Montialli said the team, right now 8-3 overall and 5-0 in region, is more focused on this year's race for the region title - a chase that heats up with games against the other top two teams. The face Lake Havasu (5-0 region) in a make-up game Wednesday, then play Cibola (3-3 region) on Friday. The week starts today with a game against the Criminals (0-6 region).
"We talked about it today and our big week starts tomorrow against Yuma High," Montialli said. "Everybody is focused looking forward to accomplish to our goal. We're just taking care of our actions. We're going to come ready to play Yuma, Havasu and Cibola this week. Unfortunately having Anthony Avalos take advantage of all of us and playing while ineligible does hurt us. But now officially we have the title taken away from us, but there's nothing we can do now. We have to worry about our actions for now and hopefully come on top again."
Garcia said that any more violations could result in the program being suspended for a year, but doesn't foresee that happening.
"This is something, to me it was an isolated situation," Garcia said. "Who ever thought a kid would go to these extremes to play high school basketball again? You live and learn. You have to trust kids to a certain point and go with it to see if they come through. It obviously didn't work out this time."
AIA rules prohibit players more than 19 years old. The rule is specific in calling for forfeiture of games that the ineligible player participated in. But Schmidt said the school did all the right things in reporting the violation after it was discovered, and that's why the punishment was a mild one.
"They made the corrections necessary to catch the problem in the future and took appropriate action in forfeiting the games and making sure it doesn't happen in the future," Schmidt said. "They had the opportunity to appeal the forfeits and chose not to. That's why it was simply advisement, which is the lowest sanction. ... The board appreciates the thoroughness of their report, they took appropriate corrective action in response to discovering it."