RIVER RIDGE — John Curtis Christian High School recently filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to try to get 20 wins and the 2013 state title back to its football program.
According to a report by the New Orleans Advocate, the LHSAA decided to take the wins and the state championship from John Curtis Christian because it ruled that the school had to forfeit games that former offensive lineman Willie Allen played in because Allen lived with an assistant football coach. The school filed suit on Jan. 30 in the 19th District Court in Baton Rouge.
"You don't know how all the general public feels, but the people that I have talked to, that I have had the opportunity to be with, have thought that the concept, in and of itself, was really unfair," J.T. Curtis, the head football coach at John Curtis Christian, told the Louisiana Record. "Certainly, it did give you a negative impact in terms of the publicity that was negative, but I think the people that I have been able to associate myself with felt like that it was not really justified."
Curtis said Allen was in school at JCC for about a year and a half before his family began experiencing financial problems.
"Willie had to change locations where he was living and his transportation, and he was basically catching the public-service bus to his workouts and to school on a daily basis," Curtis said. "When you depend on public-service buses, sometimes they're not always on time, and so he would be late coming in, and his coach would get on him about being late. Finally, one day they got to realize that it was just a distraction because of the transportation issue, that he was having to catch basically three buses to get to school."
Curtis said that when practice started, Assistant Coach Jerry Godfrey offered Allen the chance to stay with his family during the team's stretch of two practices a day.
"And from there, they developed a very close relationship that still exists today," Curtis said. "And Willie stayed with them through the next 2½ years and really has become part of the Godfrey family, to be very honest with you. And Jerry and his family and his wife and children feel as though Willie is part of their family and in his first year at LSU, have been with him the entire time."
The New Orleans Advocate reported that LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine named 11 league rules that LHSAA Compliance and Investigative Officer Joe Kleinpeter allegedly discovered that JCC violated when Kleinpeter did an internal investigation.
Curtis said the league's decision came because it felt that the program used Allen living with Godfrey to try to keep him at JCC.
"That is the word that they hung their decision on, retain a student in school," Curtis said. "And our position was and always had been from the very beginning, because it was publicly known. It was not anything that was private, that we tried to hide or that we tried to skirt under the rule. We didn't really understand that that word retain would apply to a student who was already a member of your student body and who had already committed to be in school with you."
Curtis said Allen's family wished for Allen to be at JCC. Curtis added that Allen living with Godfrey was not done for Allen to stay at the school.
"We took the position that that was not true," Curtis said. "Willie testified it was not true, and his sister, who was the spokesperson for the family, testified that that was untrue."
According to Curtis, Allen's sister said no matter how the family had to make it work, Allen was going to keep going to school at JCC.
The New Orleans Advocate also reported that the LHSAA executive committee voted 16-1 last fall to keep the forfeited wins in place in response to JCC's appeal.
"We thought we were doing something that was humanitarian and that would be long-term benefit for everybody concerned," Curtis said. "And we do not feel like that even within those rules, within the LHSAA rules, we did not violate them."