ISL strips titles, imposes sanctions on LA football

Tuesday afternoon, the Independent School League's contingents met and imposed sanctions on Lawrence Academy's football programs, most significantly stripping the Spartans of their 2009 and 2010 league titles and imposing a three-year postseason ban.

Groton School headmaster Rick Commons released a public statement to the media on behalf of the league, which outlined six sanctions but did not specify the charges levied against the program.

Reached by cell phone this morning, former head coach Mike Taylor -- who stepped down two days after seven outgoing seniors signed football Letters of Intent -- expressed remorse for the kids.

"My heart goes out to the kids, because they have nothing to do with any of this," Taylor said. "They're ones that put their sweat into it, and it's unfortunate that the mistakes that adults make, the kids get punished for. If there were any rules that I violated, I'll be glad to accept full responsibility and apologize to not only the LA kids, but any student-athlete in the league. That’s not what we're about, that’s not what our intent was. Our intent is to help kids play a wonderful game and have a great experience, and move to the next level."

The league's public statement, issued yesterday, is below:

Recently, the ISL has faced challenges to its mission resulting from individual situations as well as broad changes in the culture of high school athletics. One notable individual case involved concerns about the football program at Lawrence Academy. The League appreciated Lawrence Academy’s forthright response to our concerns, and member schools voted to impose the following sanctions:

1)To require Lawrence Academy to serve a three year probationary period whereby any subsequent violation of ISL standards (by-laws, guidelines, general agreements, or other approved League documents) may result in a membership vote to expel Lawrence Academy from the League.

During this probationary period, the League expects Lawrence Academy to affirm on an annual basis that it is in full compliance with all League standards, particularly with need-based financial aid practices. Also during this probationary period, the League expects Lawrence Academy to reconstruct its football program to align all of its standards (particularly regarding coaching, recruiting, admission, financial aid processes, and off-season activity) with ISL standards. Each fall, Lawrence Academy will be required to affirm to the Presidents of the ISLC and ISLC Steering Committee that the school is in compliance with ISL standards across its athletic programs, and that the school carefully considers ISL standards, NEPSAC regulations, and NCAA eligibility requirements in conducting its athletic program.

2)To vacate both the 2009 and 2010 league titles in football that were awarded to Lawrence Academy.

3)To disallow Lawrence Academy from applying for a NEPSAC bowl game as a representative of the ISL for a three-year period.

4)To require Lawrence Academy to affirm in writing to the Presidents of the ISLC and ISLC Steering Committee by May 1, 2011, that for the upcoming school year, all of its varsity student-athletes who receive financial support from the school will do so using a needs-based analysis and not a merit-based scholarship.

5)To vacate the Heads’ vote of October 24 awarding to Lawrence Academy a “forfeit” of the 2010 football game between St. George’s School and Lawrence Academy, changing the recorded outcome to “no contest.”

6)To request that Lawrence Academy make a formal written apology to the ISL and, in so doing, reaffirm its commitment to the requirements of membership.

The seriousness of the sanctions we have imposed reflects our commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of our student-athletes. The Heads and Athletic Directors of the ISL are committed to the mission of our League and embrace the work necessary to “striving together through athletic competition to achieve the highest degree of integrity, sportsmanship, fair play and mutual respect in preparation for good citizenship and leadership in society.”