BRADENTON — The head football coach of the former Bradenton Preparatory Academy contends he didn’t know any of his players were ineligible during their recent trip to Texas.
“Had we known those kids were post-graduates, they would have never been on the bus,” said Walt Williams, who spoke out Friday for the first time in an interview with the Herald.
Operating under the Bradenton Prep name, the team played one game against Canyon Creek, a private high school in Texas. A second game (scheduled against Redwater High) was cancelled by Jeff Stine, the Redwater head coach and athletic director, because he said he learned seven players on Williams’ team would be ineligible under Texas high school rules because of their age.
Texas rules state a player is ineligible if that player turns 19 before Sept. 1.
Bradenton Prep — now known as Prep Learning Academy — did not have the proper paperwork on the players in question, according to Hendrik Lamprecht, the school’s new CEO.
“All this stuff occurred once we were in Texas,” Williams said. “If we had this information before we left, those kids would never have been on the bus. I did not know they were post-graduates. I told Mr. Stine any kids that were in question, we are going to pull those kids, and those kids would not play in a game until I was definitely sure what was going on.
“They said there were seven players in question. I told them I would pull those players, and let’s play football, and that gentleman declined to play the game. We did not break any rules because we did not play the game.”
Williams, also Bradenton Prep’s athletic director, said the only paperwork he had on some of his players was left by Bradenton Prep’s former head coach, Joe Hammond. He said that paperwork was incomplete, which led to the problem of using ineligible players.
“When I got to Texas, I found two of our players were ineligible. I took them aside and told them they would not be allowed to play, and we would resolve the matter when we got back home,” Williams said.
Hammond disputed the contention made by Williams and Lamprecht.
“They knew everybody on the team and whether they were eligible,” Hammond said when contacted Friday. “In every school, the athletic director is supposed to take care of the paperwork. When I left there, Walt Williams was the athletic director, and he is still the athletic director.”
The Prep Learning Academy has its first home game scheduled for next Friday at Palma Sola Park, Williams said.
Earlier this week, the school did not have liability insurance to play at Palma Sola Park, said Carolyn Angiolillo, recreations manager with Manatee County Parks & Recreation.
But on Friday, Angiolillo said the school had obtained liability insurance.
County rules prohibit teams from playing on fields if they don’t have a certificate of liability insurance.
In addition to its football drama, the school is beset by myriad financial issues as its previous owner, The Children’s Place Inc., owes more than $1 million in federal payroll taxes, according to Internal Revenue Service liens. A lender won a $3.68 million foreclosure judgment and recently repossessed the school’s former campus on 40th Avenue West.
Several creditors have also sued over unpaid debts and about a dozen former teachers contend they’re owed up to four months back pay and plan to sue.
Lamprecht has attributed the school’s problems to the previous owner, Children’s Place, controlled by the school’s founding family.
This week, Lamprecht opened a new school, The Prep, in a 9,000-square-foot building at 7700 Cortez Road. But it has no permit to hold classes there.
Lamprecht said he is in the process of obtaining the permit, but a county planner said he had not submitted an application as of Friday. The permit would take several weeks to obtain, county planners have said. Until then, the school’s 127 students are bused from a nearby church to various places for class. He would not say where.