MAIS reverses decision, will allow Hartfield Academy into football playoffs

Published 7:39 pm Monday, August 28, 2023

The Mid-South Association of Independent Schools has reversed an earlier ruling and declared that Hartfield Academy will be eligible for the football playoffs this season.

In early August, the MAIS announced that Hartfield was ineligible for the postseason following a complaint that its coaches had illegally recruited a student from Madison-St. Joseph.

Hartfield appealed the decision, and on Monday the school announced in a news release that the MAIS ruled in its favor.

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According to Hartfield’s statement, “The MAIS instead found that Hartfield was careless in allowing the appearance of improper recruiting to exist.” The association issued a warning to the school, placed it on probation, and “greatly” reduced a $7,500 fine that was levied in July. Hartfield’s statement did not state the amount of the reduced fine.

Two assistant coaches, Ryan Lindsay and Lee Dawkins, were also prohibited from coaching in games following the initial ruling. On Monday, Hartfield head coach Craig Bowman told WLBT-TV that the coaches have been reinstated by the MAIS.

“Although Hartfield does not agree with these sanctions, it accepts them in an effort to conclude the matter and move forward with its mission — preparing young people academically, emotionally, and spiritually to pursue the next stages of their lives with a passion for learning, for putting others ahead of self, and for the living and active Jesus Christ,” Hartfield said in a statement.

In making its initial ruling, the MAIS Affairs Committee reviewed slides, videos and audio tapes provided by Madison-St. Joe that purportedly showed evidence of the infractions that were committed in November 2022.

The motion to sanction Hartfield passed by a 9-0 vote. In announcing that decision, the MAIS said “Hartfield coaches were clearly seen on video addressing multiple parents and a student from St. Joe in the visitor’s stands and on the upper deck of the gym during a basketball game played at Hartfield.”

The MAIS did not immediately issue a statement regarding Hartfield’s appeal, what the vote to overturn the decision was, or what new evidence was brought forward to change its ruling.

Hartfield Academy reached the MAIS Class 6A championship game in 2021 and the semifinals in 2022. It is off to a 3-0 start this season and plays Cathedral at home in Flowood this Friday.

Hartfield and Madison-St. Joe will play each other on Oct. 20 in Madison.