ARLINGTON — A local athletic board has banned three of four star basketball players from playing in the 2012-13 season after improperly transferring to Deion Sanders' Prime Prep Academy.
The blue chip players followed their coach from Arlington Grace Prep, a two-time state championship school, after he got the head coaching job at Prime Academy. The ruling from the 11-3A District Executive Committee means the students are ineligible to play the 2012-13 season.
Eligible players have to show residency in the charter's home attendance zone.
Sanders chastised the UIL board for challenging the transfers, saying the students deserved a shot at a better education at no cost at his brand new school. But athletic eligibility forms called PAPs and utility bills that prove residency was enough proof for a majority of committee members to rule against Sanders.
"Even if the PAPs are clean, the addresses are right, the electric bills are right it's still recruiting,” said Aaron Emeyabbi the Athletic Director at Ferris ISD and a committee member.
Sanders told the committee his school, which just opened, provides opportunities for kids to succeed just as he came out of a tough neighborhood.
"It's because I had a dream of getting my mother out of the inner city. And you're going to deny that over some mess,” Sanders said.
Coaches who voted against Sanders' team say this wasn't about education or opportunity. It was about sports and following the rules.
"The bottom line is, everybody in here has the right to ask those questions. The burden of proof lies on you,” said Marian Willard, the local UIL Committee chairperson.
Sanders and Prime Prep say they will appeal the ruling to state UIL officials in Austin, who will make a final decision. Sanders says his efforts to changes the lives of inner city kids are only scrutinized because of who he is.
"Tell me this: Would you guys be standing here today if my name wasn't on the school?” he asked.
Prime Prep's football entire football program has already been declared ineligible for the season, which means Prime Prep can field a basketball team but without three highly-recruited, blue chip players.
The football team is playing exhibition games in Texas and Oklahoma.