Warren Central basketball team slapped with postseason ban

Published 11:48 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Warren Central’s boys varsity basketball team faces multiple sanctions after illegally holding practices nearly a month before the allowable date under Mississippi High School Activities Association guidelines.

The team has been banned by MHSAA for one year from postseason play, fined $1,000 and forced to delay legal practices by two days.

In addition, first-year coach Chareck Cable has been suspended by the Vicksburg Warren School District for the team’s first five games, Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Duran Swinford said Tuesday.

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According to a letter from the MHSAA to the district, the Vikings will be allowed to play out the regular-season schedule, which begins Nov. 5 against Murrah, but will not be allowed to play in the Division 3-6A tournament or the Class 6A playoffs.

The postseason ban is part of a probationary period that will last until March 4, the day of the last state championship games.

“They had some early practices, which is a serious offense. It gives you a competitive advantage,” MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said. “We felt like we were justified in handing out these penalties.”

The practices in question occurred on Sept. 18 and 25, both Sundays. Under MHSAA rules, teams were not allowed to begin practice until Monday.

Vicksburg Warren athletic director Lum Wright Jr. said Cable — who was hired as Warren Central’s coach after several seasons as an assistant at Brandon High School — invited some players to Warren Central for a workout, and most of the team showed up.

Upon arrival, players were instructed to park their vehicles behind the school. Wright said he felt that was a clear indication Cable knew the workouts were illegal.

After the second workout, WC principal Rodney Smith was informed of the practices and reported them to Wright. The next day, the school district self-reported the violations in writing to the MHSAA.

In the MHSAA’s answer to the district detailing the penalties, the governing body credited the district for self-reporting and for its cooperation in the investigation.

“It’s not like they caught us doing this,” Swinford said.

The MHSAA’s investigation concluded last week.

Swinford said the district appealed the postseason ban because she felt it was too harsh, citing an on-field fight between football teams from Port Gibson and Raymond. After the fight last month, 21 players were suspended but neither school was disqualified from the playoffs.

“All my boys did was have two days of practice. I was all right with the fine and the suspension,” she said. “You’re saying my kids can get in a brawl, but if you practice ahead of time you get punished for the postseason.”

Hinton said the MHSAA takes each incident on a case-by-case basis, and the facts of the Warren Central incident warranted a harsh penalty. He said the Port Gibson-Raymond fight was limited to the players on the field, but Cable’s practices were a flagrant and intentional violation.

“All of our situations are different,” Hinton said. “One of the automatic disqualifications is if a team comes off the bench. When you watch the tape, that did not happen at Port Gibson. Different circumstances, different cases.”

Hinton said a school’s record doesn’t factor into the penalties levied by the MHSAA’s executive committee when a violation occurs. Wright, who has been the Vicksburg Warren School District’s athletic director for more than a decade, could not recall the last time Warren Central had a major rules violation.

“I’m not sure we look at the number of violations. We make it based on individual violations, and that’s what we did here,” Hinton said.

In addition to the more severe penalties, Warren Central’s varsity team was prohibited from starting preseason practice until today. Cable worked with the freshman team on Monday and Tuesday, but said he didn’t want to talk about the infractions or penalties.

“We’re going to move on and try to put this behind us,” Cable said.