TSSAA hammers MBA for financial aid violations

Friday, January 13, 2012 at 11:51am
By Steve Cavendish and J.R. Lind

Following a City Paper investigation, the TSSAA — the state's high-school sports governing body — issued major sanctions against Montgomery Bell Academy Friday.

The Big Red will vacate the 2007 state football title and the 2010 basketball title, forfeit all games in football between 2007 and 2011 and several basketball games between 2007 and 2010, and turn over more than $46,000 in playoff revenue for violations of the recruiting and financial aid rules.

In addition, MBA will be on two years probation, will pay a fine and will, voluntarily, conduct seminars for other private schools on the TSSAA's financial aid rules.

The City Paper investigation found at least nine alleged cases of student-athletes receiving financial aid outside of the strictures of the TSSAA's rules. The TSSAA ultimately found three instances of recruiting and eight financial aid violations.

In a letter to MBA, TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said that, although many of the instances represented MBA helping "families in need," it was still a violation of the rules.

"Good intentions do not excuse the institution's failure to understand and follow important TSSAA Bylaws that serve the purposes outlined above. Over a period of several years MBA did not see to it that key members of the school's administration understood the requirements of the TSSAA Bylaws, particularly the Tuition and Financial Aid Rule and the Recruiting Rule."

Additionally, MBA’s entire athletic program will serve a two-year probation starting on Feb. 1. If the school is found to violate any TSSAA eligibility rules during that period, the program will be placed on a one-year restrictive probation and fined $25,000.

Headmaster Brad Gioia was out of town and unavailable for comment.

MBA fired head coach Daniel McGugin in April 2011 it came to light that he delivered a check for $1,500 to the parents of a player. In May, the school formed a review committee to examine financial aid policies regarding student athletes. The committee delivered the results of the report in August 2011 to attorneys for the TSSAA, which launched its own investigation. The penalties announced today are a result of that investigation.

Specifically, the TSSAA found three examples where tuition balances were left uncollected by the school in addition to third parties assisting student athletes by paying some or all of their tuition.

In a letter to MBA alumni, board of trust chairman James A. Webb III, acknowledged the school’s violations.

“These past many months have been difficult for the entire MBA family, but I believe we have emerged better and stronger. MBA has dealt with this matter forthrightly, acknowledged its mistakes, and corrected the problems that led to these issues. In fact, the TSSAA cited the decisive action MBA took last spring and summer, as well as MBA’s full cooperation with the TSSAA, as the primary reasons that the penalties were not more severe. While we are disappointed in having to forfeit past athletic events and awards, we are extremely pleased that the TSSAA agreed there was no need to place any future restrictions on MBA’s athletics program that would have limited our current students’ full athletic participation.”

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MBA letter redacted.pdf3.12 MB

18 Comments on this post:

By: Ummm... on 1/13/12 at 11:28

When TCP initially ran the story about possible violations by MBA, there were a couple of posts claiming that it was merely a personal vendetta against the school. Apparently the TSSAA didn't agree.

By: Rasputin72 on 1/13/12 at 12:45

In this instance the great academic high school has been reduced to "Forgive them Father for they were babes in the woods at recruiting and scholarships." Can you imagine the laughter that is going on at the premier recruiting and scholarship schools?

By: EMINEM on 1/13/12 at 12:59

Cheating is cheating, agreed. But in some cases, the TSSAA goes beyond good sense. (Not that it did in this particular case, but look at the Grace Christian Academy case).

By: TNPREPS on 1/13/12 at 7:01

Following a City Paper investigation, the TSSAA — the state's high-school sports governing body — issued major sanctions against Montgomery Bell Academy Friday.

Interesting lead-in. Chronologically correct, perhaps, but if the inference is cause-and-effect, that is misleading.

By: ConsiderTheSource on 1/14/12 at 10:41

Actually "Ummm...", my complaints were that the paper used anonymous sources to make the suggestion that Mr. Gioia had somehow known and approved of Coach McGugin's actions.

This has been the McGugin family line from the start, and the Thompsons, which have an ownership share of this paper, are doing everything in their power to propagate this rumor.

The facts of the matter are:

1) When this initially came to light, Daniel McGugin told Mr. Gioia that he had in fact delivered the check to the 9th grade Simonis. He reported that it was a cashiers check and that he had found it in his mailbox at school and was unaware of the source of the funds.

2) It was later determined that the source of the funds was Daniel McGugin's father, George McGugin, who is an MBA Board of Trust member.

No reputable news outlet would report such a brazen character assault without any named sources, unless that paper/reporter was under the direction of the ownership, which as I've said happens to be one of the McGugin's closest friends and allies.

The disclosure statement in the article that appeared earlier this week was a joke at best, as it acknowledged the Thompsons are part owners of the paper, but not the nature of the relationship between the Thompsons and the McGugins.

Further, the author went so far as to paint Coach McGugin as a patsy -- a victim of the "culture" of MBA athletics. That culture only exists in the small, deluded world in which the Thompsons and McGugins incestuously live.

MBA is clearly willing to accept its guilt and will do everything in its power to make sure that none of this ever happens again.

If Gioia is guilty of anything, it would be his going out on a limb and sticking his neck out to hire Daniel McGugin to begin with, despite the reservations and protestations of well over a majority of the MBA Board of Trust.

Snakes bite; lesson learned.

By: Rasputin72 on 1/14/12 at 7:27

For as long as their has been a Belle Meade there have been people who after "CONSIDERING THE SOURCE' decided to ignore it.

By: MediaObserver on 1/14/12 at 7:48

To ConsiderTheSource--Amen to your comment!

Until now, I thought the City Paper was a refreshing and much needed (although sometimes flawed) source of information and journalism for Nashville. While it is true the article contains many statements of accurate fact, that does not disguise nor justify the obvious vendetta against Mr. Gioia that the paper is pursuing under the guise of non-biased reporting of the news. Were this story submitted as an assignment for Journalism 101, I would not hesitate to give it a failing grade. Case in point (and only one of many): the lead paragraph is more than misleading--it borders on outright falsehood and intentional deception.

In addition, not until the 9th (!) paragraph of the article, does the story mention that the TSSAA violations came to light as a result of MBA's self-initiated review/investigation/report.

The icing on the cake to this supposedly unbiased report is what the story omits. While the City Paper claims that Mr. Gioia was unavailable for comment, the story fails to mention, much less excerpt or publish, the lengthy and detailed statement released by Mr. Gioia on Friday morning. If the paper was truly interested in reporting the full story, rather than engaging in a hatchet job on Mr. Gioia, it would have at least quoted from the statement or included it in its entirety as an attachment--as it did with the TSSAA letter.

(BTW--Just in case the paper or reporter(s) could not locate the statement, perhaps they could go to the Tennessean's website. Mr. Gioia's full statement was included with the Tennessean's earliest report of the TSSAA's findings on Friday morning. Then again, if the City Paper had included or mentioned Mr. Gioia's statement, that would have more accurately and fairly presented BOTH sids of the story).

It seems that lack of integrity and ethics extends far beyond the content of the story. "Physician heal thyself". . .

DISCLOSURE: I am NOT a student, alumnus, employee, parent of a student, board member. former parent, etc. of MBA--just an interested observer of education and athletics in the Nashville area.

By: Rasputin72 on 1/15/12 at 7:49

I saw no intent whatsoever by the paper to do a "hatchet job" on Brad Gioia. Brad Gioia has done a magnificent job of driving MBA forward. Fortunately or unfortunately he is naive and unskilled at skullduggery. When it comes to skullduggery it is advisable never to play in another man's game.

I am absolutely positive that he will never again subject MBA to the lure of "athletes for hire."

By: scavendish on 1/15/12 at 11:00
MediaObserver -- We sought Mr. Gioia's comment first thing on Friday morning. We were told by his assistant that he was out of town and unavailable. We were promised a copy of whatever statement he or the school would make. We never received anything from MBA. People see what they want to see.
By: Rasputin72 on 1/16/12 at 8:26

Scavendish........Gioia will never again "willingly" be a communicant with the CITY PAPER. Anything that even looks like an adverse opinion of him will forever be considered blasphemy.

By: Loner on 1/16/12 at 12:01

James Webb III wrote, "While we are disappointed in having to forfeit past athletic events and awards, we are extremely pleased that the TSSAA agreed there was no need to place any future restrictions on MBA’s athletics program that would have limited our current students’ full athletic participation.”

I don't think that Mr. Webb and his cohorts understand the nature of their problem, even now...and apparently the TSSAA has not learned much either.

I say that because, IMO, the overly-high emphasis on athletic competition and football is the cause of the problem..the MBA scandal was one effect of that cause.

This letter from Mr. Webb and the actions of the TSSAA indicate that they have not dealt with the cause, they have addressed one example of the ugly effects of the time-honored cause. It's back to business as usual.

High schools should be educating young minds, not impairing young brains, as a result of sports-related concussions.

The Ivy League deliberately de-emphasized football and other contact sports back in the 60's. Maybe the Nashville area High Schools ought to rip a page out of the Ivy League's playbook....de-emphasize football.

Try emphasizing the debate teams, the school bands and orchestras, the math & science club competitions, the future teacher's clubs, the Chess team, the National Honor Society and so forth. That's not so "macho" and "manly", by some definitions of those terms, but, IMO, that sort of an agenda is a lot more in line with the mission statements of these schools.

By: Loner on 1/16/12 at 12:02

Looks like EMINEM tripped the Italics HTML...should be OK now.

By: Loner on 1/16/12 at 12:03

Uh oh...we got Italics up the wazooo.

By: Loner on 1/16/12 at 12:04

OK....all clear. The NCP has a glitch here.

By: Loner on 1/16/12 at 12:06

Let me re-post that in good old gothic sans serif whatever:

James Webb III wrote, "While we are disappointed in having to forfeit past athletic events and awards, we are extremely pleased that the TSSAA agreed there was no need to place any future restrictions on MBA’s athletics program that would have limited our current students’ full athletic participation.”

I don't think that Mr. Webb and his cohorts understand the nature of their problem, even now...and apparently the TSSAA has not learned much either.

I say that because, IMO, the overly-high emphasis on athletic competition and football is the cause of the problem..the MBA scandal was one effect of that cause.

This letter from Mr. Webb and the actions of the TSSAA indicate that they have not dealt with the cause, they have addressed one example of the ugly effects of the time-honored cause. It's back to business as usual.

High schools should be educating young minds, not impairing young brains, as a result of sports-related concussions.

The Ivy League deliberately de-emphasized football and other contact sports back in the 60's. Maybe the Nashville area High Schools ought to rip a page out of the Ivy League's playbook....de-emphasize football.

Try emphasizing the debate teams, the school bands and orchestras, the math & science club competitions, the future teacher's clubs, the Chess team, the National Honor Society and so forth. That's not so "macho" and "manly", by some definitions of those terms, but, IMO, that sort of an agenda is a lot more in line with the mission statements of these schools.

By: Liberal 25 on 1/17/12 at 12:11

Loner, I agree with your comments. Adults are to blame for this situation. It sucks that the kids have to suffer. Too bad many of Tennessee's brightest high school students leave the state after graduation.

It is clear however that MBA seems to have struck a better balance between athletic success and educating its students. I suggest you thoroughly research the school before making generalizations about it.

Check out MBA's college profile. It's arguably the best school in the state. Overall, Brad Gioia is doing a good job leading the school.

https://www.montgomerybell.edu/ftpimages/175/misc/misc_101346.pdf

By: jsnap on 1/17/12 at 8:38

Gioia is doing a good job of leading the school into the ground. He, the AD, Mr. Webb and other board members need to resign now .

By: Left-of-Local on 1/17/12 at 12:12

Hammer away, TSSAA...