Nease football forced to forfeit wins, pay fine for FHSAA violation


The Nease football program must forfeit two of its wins from the 2016 season and pay a $100 fine after dressing an ineligible player in seven games, which is a Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) violation.

According to Paul Abbatinozzi, the director for school services for the St. Johns County School District, the student athlete is from outside the United States, where he accumulated enough school credit to technically complete high school based on that country’s educational system. This made him ineligible to participate on Nease’s team or attend the school.

Consequently, the FHSAA, Florida’s governing body for high school athletics, informed Nease in early November that it would be stripped of its wins against Pedro Menendez (Sept. 9) and Englewood (Oct. 27). The FHSAA’s letter of reprimand also stated that Nease must pay a $100 fine and communicate to all impacted teams throughout the season.

Abbatinozzi said the student athlete was immediately removed from the team once the school understood he was ineligible. According to Christina Langston, chief of community relations for the St. Johns County School District, he is also no longer a student at Nease.

When the student arrived at Nease, Abbatinozzi said the school had not immediately received the requisite, comprehensive documentation concerning his educational status and believed he was eligible to attend the school and play football.

“It was a discrepancy in the evaluation of the transcript,” said Abbatinozzi. “The information was very slow coming in.”

Once Nease received the student’s full transcript and other necessary documentation, Abbatinozzi said the school realized he was ineligible and self-reported the infraction to the FHSAA.

“It’s not something that’s commonplace for our district,” said Abbatinozzi. “Those athletic directors and the staff at the high school, they exhausted due diligence and made sure we’re within the scope and sequence of eligibility.”

Since the ineligible player did not dress for the Panthers’ last game of the season – a Nov. 10 win against West Nassau – the outcome of that game is unaffected, and Nease can keep the win.

Nease finished the season 3-6. The Panthers’ record will now fall to 1-8 because of the FHSAA sanctions.

This is not the first time that Nease has been penalized by the FHSAA. In 2006, the football program was slapped with a $20,000 fine and placed on six years of probation after two assistant coaches provided inducements to a player and his father. The school’s entire athletic program was also placed on five years of administrative probation. At the time, Nease had already been serving administrative probation for violations committed by the baseball program in 2005.