BRADENTON — There will be no more football at the Prep Learning Academy.
At least not this year.
School CEO Hendrik Lamprecht said he threw about 20 players off the team and out of school who were being disruptive and who decided to put athletics over academics.
“I cannot afford any more disruptions,” Lamprecht said Friday. “We will get this school back to what it is supposed to be, and that is an academic school.”
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Of the approximately 27 players on the team — known formerly as Bradenton Prep — Lamprecht said eight remained, including just one senior.
Early Thursday morning, Lamprecht said he witnessed one of the former players talking back to the school’s headmaster, claiming he was leaving and never coming back.
“My remark was, ‘You leave, you don’t come back. You’re not here to disrupt the other classes,’” Lamprecht said. “We’ve had enough of football causing us trouble, and all the kids that were causing trouble left.”
The decision marks an end to a bizarre chapter for the Patriots, who were supposed to begin the season on a three-game road trip through Louisiana and Texas. The Patriots won their first two games before their third game, scheduled to be played against Redwater High in Texas, was cancelled when Redwater’s coach, Jeff Stine, claimed that seven players on Prep’s roster were considered too old to play football in Texas.
It was later revealed that at least two players were post-graduates, having already earned diplomas from other high schools in Manatee and Sarasota counties. In an interview last week with the Herald, Walt Williams, the Prep’s football coach and athletic director, blamed that on Joe Hammond, the school’s previous head coach.
Hammond has disputed that contention.
“They knew everybody on the team and whether they were eligible,” Hammond told the Herald last week. “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 Patriots, who resigned from the Florida High School Athletic Association in October 2008 after being fined more than $34,000 for violating association bylaws, had five games left on their schedule that is listed on Maxpreps.com. One game was to be played in Plymouth, Minn., against Wayzata High.
“It’s a sad day. We don’t have the players to field a team because the people outside the school wanted to disband our program,” Williams said. “The community never gave this program a shot. The news media never gave this program a shot.
“I’m going to go to work in the morning as the athletic director whether we have football or not. I feel bad for the children.”
Williams’ son, Jared, is a senior running back who Walt Williams said has multiple Division I scholarship offers. Walt Williams declined to comment on Jared’s status as a student-athlete and whether he was staying at the school. “I feel for the 27 children who don’t have football. They are my heroes,” Walt Williams said. “There was some fault there, sure, but a lot of them were doing right. And all the people who wanted to bring this program down, all the bloggers, you got what you wanted.”
Lamprecht said he hopes to have football back next season, and claims it will be done the right way.
“My view is ... we do the other sports that the school has always done, and build a school football team,” Lamprecht said, “not a young adult football team, because that, unfortunately, is what has happened here. You cannot have young adults playing school football. I couldn’t see the fun of it. You need healthy competition. And that, we will get back.”
“Next year, I promise you, you will see a team that will play school football, not college football, he said.
“(The cancellation of the season) is sad, but it’s the best thing that can happen right now.”