Tifton Gazette

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February 18, 2013

GHSA ends investigation into Tift County High boys basketball

TIFTON —  Two days before the top-ranked Tift County Blue Devils basketball team is set to begin play in the state Class AAAAAA tournament, the program has received good news from the Georgia High School Association.

In a statement sent to The Tifton Gazette Monday morning, the GHSA said, “After an extensive investigation, it could not be verified that Tift was guilty of any recruiting violations.”

The investigation, which began in October, was a result of allegations from the Turner County School System that Tift County had recruited a high school player and a middle school player.

“It feels good to be vindicated,” said Tift County High athletic director Rusty Smith said. “We felt good about the situation, because the Georgia High School Association had approved every one of our players (as eligible to play for Tift County).”

Head coach Eric Holland said Monday that he was unaware that the investigation had ended. “I just let the powers-that-be handle that,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about it because I knew we had done nothing wrong.”

Smith went on to add, “We cooperated fully with the Georgia High School Association on the matter. It was a long process, but I am glad it’s over and the kids and coaches can concentrate on the state tournament.”

While Tift was cleared of recruiting, there was another violation the GHSA did find.

The statement said, “During the investigation it was discovered that the school held an illegal practice in November of 2011. As a result of this illegal practice, the school was fined an undisclosed amount and the basketball program was put on severe warning status from now through the end of the 2014 season. That means that any similar violations by the basketball program during the warning period would result in much more severe penalties.”

Tift will open up play in the state Class AAAAAA tournament Wednesday against McEachern.

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