Whitmer under the microscope

Leroy Alexander

One of the top football programs in the area is now under investigation.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association is looking into the legitimacy of a high number of transfers to Whitmer High School.

Former Bowsher head basketball coach Dick Crowell began e-mailing OHSAA Assistant Commissioner Jerry Snodgrass in May, when Crowell became suspicious of the transfers. The e-mails were used as evidence in the court case for Leroy Alexander, a transfer from Springfield High School. Alexander won a temporary injunction in that case which allowed him to play in the Panthers season opener.

Also in the e-mails, Crowell questioned the academic and residential eligibility of not only Alexander but Whitmer seniors Alonzo Lucas and Jody Webb as well. Crowell states that both Webb and Lucas were ineligible when they attended Bowsher but were eligible "right away" at Whitmer. In one particular e-mail, Crowell states that he saw the Alexander's in their home on Hidden Springs Dr, which is not in the Washington Local School District.

Crowell also accused Whitmer of having a smart board in the football coaches TM office with the names of the staff and what students in the area each member is expected to recruit.

Washington Local School District Superintendent Patrick Hickey denied all allegations and in an e-mail to Crowell he accused him, on more than one occasion, of painting with a broad brush.

On Wednesday Superintendent Hickey, Athletic Director Tom Snook, football head coach Joe Palka, Board President Steve Zuber, and Whitmer Principal Mark Verroco held a press conference to address the allegations and investigation.

"We have been rated Excellent by the Ohio Department of Education three times. We have an amazing community that supports us and demands excellence. I will not apologize that so many people want to come to our district and we do our due diligence to insure that they are here legally. We, in partnership with our community, have built a district that people desire and seek." - said Hickey.

"We strongly believe in what we do and we do it the right way, so regardless of what a jealous few want to say. We know we're doing things the right way and at the end of the day that's why we hold or heads high." said Palka.

In regards to a question about whether there would be an investigation if the Panthers were not a successful team, Palka responded: "I just think it's pretty coincidental that we've been successful and all of the sudden...we're under such intense scrutiny."