DPS declares 2008 Division B city football championship game void due to player ineligibility on winning and losing teams

Detroit Public Schools announced today that the 2008 city football Division B champions from Southwestern High School are being stripped of their title after a review showed the team fielded ineligible players.

The review was conducted by Dickinson Wright, PLLC and a team led by former Mayor Dennis Archer, in conjunction with an audit plan by Detroit Public Schools’ Office of the Auditor General. A subsequent review by DPS auditors found that the opposing team, Osborn High School, fielded ineligible players for the DPS Football League 2008 Division B Championship game on Oct. 24, 2008. Due to the findings, the district deems it appropriate to nullify the championship award for Division B for the 2008 season.

Reviewers found no effective systematic process to ensure eligibility, a lack of understanding of authoritative guidelines by school personnel and virtually no monitoring or enforcement by DPS central office staff. Among other findings, the Official Master Eligibility Lists for the Southwestern football team’s 2008-09 season were inexplicably missing, according to the review.

“There is no excuse for the complete lack of an established process to ensure player eligibility,” said Robert Bobb, the district’s Emergency Financial Manager. “The fault lies neither with the players nor the school personnel, but with a district that lacked any proper procedures to examine eligibility. Still, we must ensure integrity within our sports program, and therefore are obligated to make the decision to nullify the 2008 DPS football Division B championships.”

“We are putting new processes in place to re-establish the integrity of DPS’ athletics, so the players and community can be proud of this storied sports program,” Bobb said.

To conduct the review, auditors examined DPS computer records, grade point averages and official transcripts of students for the semester ending June 2008. The team also conducted interviews with present and former administrators, faculty and the coach of Southwestern High for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons.

Based on interviews and three lists of players that were fielded in the citywide competition, which were then confirmed by the coach, the review found that several Southwestern students were academically ineligible, according to the rules of the DPS Interscholastic Manual, to play in the championship game and the subsequent MHSAA tournament game against Dearborn Heights Annapolis.

The DPS manual states that a student participating in interscholastic athletics must have a “C” grade point average (2.0) or better for the semester immediately before participation.

Students also must maintain a 2.0 or better throughout the period of participation.

Though the players were found to be academically ineligible under the DPS standards, all players were found to be eligible per the MHSAA 2008-09 Handbook. MHSAA confirmed that only those students who did not receive credits for the specified number of courses would be precluded from participating in competition. Reviewers also found through interviews that the ineligibility of players may not be unique to the schools that participated in the championship game. Results of the review have been disclosed to MHSAA.

To ensure player eligibility moving forward, new procedures are planned districtwide, including: strengthening DPS eligibility procedures and regulations, establishing a scanning process of eligibility lists for enhanced security, training of eligibility enforcers and enhancing the DPS Athletic Manual.

Those changes are part of an overhaul of DPS’ athletic program, which also included an audit of cash receipts at athletic events. That audit sought to assess internal controls over cash receipts at DPS athletic games.

The Office of the Auditor General observed selected football games and the cash management procedures and practices conducted by the athletic staff at the various high schools. The objective was to review cash management practices and procedures performed by the athletic coordinators and school bookkeepers and to review School Administrative Financial and Athletic Manuals to obtain the criteria for cash management operations/procedures.

Auditors observed the processes during and after the football games during the period of August 27 through September 11, 2009 and found $28,000 collected from gate receipts and concession sales, for an average of $2,333 per game. The audit scope focused on cash management procedures performed during and after football games for the School Year 2009-2010. Auditors attended 12 games, including a triple-header, accounting for 10 different events that were observed.

“Our auditors found a serious lack of controls at several games, where the amount of money collected was not immediately reconciled with ticket sales and where money was not deposited in a bank in a timely manner, nor in the appropriate athletic fund,” said Odell Bailey, DPS Auditor General. “The amount collected at these games is not insignificant, and we need to make sure the money is going where it should go – back into athletic programs.”

Auditors also found no public restrooms at some events, a lack of security near where money was collected, no attempt to ensure large bills were not counterfeit, and cases where just one person managed ticket distribution and cash collection.

“As part of our mission to root out waste, fraud and abuse – and ensure every penny we have goes to improving the education and well-being of our students – we have identified steps to improve the handling of money at all athletic events,” Bobb said.

General observations:

-At 3 of 10 events, school officials did not reconcile cash receipts to tickets sold immediately after
the game
– At 6 of 10 events, DPS and non- DPS staff were paid for working the game. The authorization for payment for some positions, such as Field Coordinator ($150- $175), Assistant Coordinator ($65 – $73) and Ticket Taker/Seller ($25 – $35) could not be found within the DPS Athletic Manual or School Administrative Financial Manual
– Six events had concession stands and all failed to employ inventory management controls
– Nine of 10 events collected cash in open areas, where safety was a potential issue
– Cash collected from the cash box was not properly recorded
– There was a lack of consistency for free admission of children, staff, administrator, coaches, scouts, etc.
– Security did not stay in close proximity of where money was exchanged at all times
– Security was not always present prior to the start of each game

Planned corrective actions:

– A formal reconciliation of tickets sold and cash collected to be performed under dual control immediately after the football games; utilizing the Ticket Sales Form
– Updating the Athletic Manual to reflect current policy, specifically guidelines for payment to school officials, such as Field Coordinators, Ticket Takers and Ticket Sellers
– An inventory of concession stand products to be taken before and after the game and a ledger of items sold maintained to provide a basis for revenues earned during the game
– Monies collected from the cash box to be recorded and transferred under dual control
– Updating and clarifying the Athletic Manual to reflect guidelines concerning the admission of children, staff, administrators, coaches and scouts and who will be allowed in free or at reduced admissions to athletic events
– Working with the Office of Public Safety to ensure adequate police coverage of activities that occurs at athletic events
– Cash boxes to be purchased and used at all sporting events to protect and organize monies received from ticket sales

A full copy of the gates receipts audit can be found at: http://www.detroit.k12.mi.us/admin/auditor_general/docs/2009.11.05_Cash_Receipts_from_Athletic_Events.pdf

Games observed by auditors included the following: Pershing @ Denby; Cass @ Central; Northwestern @ Renaissance; Osborn @ Southwestern; (King @ Ford; Southwestern @ Cody; Mumford @ Renaissance – Triple Header hosted at Renaissance); Denby @Finney; Western @ Pershing; Denby @ Cass; King @ Mumford and Ford @ Cody.

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