Braves coach is disciplined

Monday, April 10, 2006
Scott Central basketball coach David Heeb watches the action as his players celebrate.

MORLEY -- Scott County Central boys basketball coach David Heeb has been handed a suspension that will keep him from coaching the Braves for much of next season, including district and state tournament games in 2007.

The Missouri High School Activities Association Board of Directors on Saturday handed out a suspension for the second semester of the 2006-07 season for violations of association by-laws pertaining to undue influence.

Heeb will not be allowed to coach or attend high school basketball games during the second semester of 2006-07, including postseason games. He also will not be allowed to attend or coach junior high games during the 2006-07 season. He will be prohibited from organizing, conducting, supervising or attending any open gyms or any other open facilities for recreation activities.

In addition, Heeb will be required to attend the MSHSAA Sportsmanship Summit in August.

"We're disappointed in the outcome," said Dr. Joby Holland, superintendent at Scott County Central. "At the same time, the state association has to do what they feel is right. The whole thing is really unfortunate.

"From the school's standpoint, we're supportive of coach Heeb. He's done a good job at Scott Central and a good job for the kids."

The board handed down the decision during its regularly scheduled meeting Saturday following an appeal from Scott County Central officials during a closed session.

Heeb is completing his first year as the athletic director at Scott County Central, where he also is the boys basketball coach. The penalty should have no impact on his AD duties, Holland said.

"The bottom line is that I'm going to be fine, and Scott County Central is going to be fine," Heeb said when contacted Saturday night.He said he had not had time to review fully the penalties issued.

"I will do what I need to do" to comply, Heeb said. "From a school s

tandpoint, we'll be fine, and it's not going to stop the big picture of what we're going to accomplish."

Heeb had been the boys basketball coach at Bell City for five seasons, leading the Cubs to two Class 1 state championships -- in 2002 and 2004 -- and another final four appearance in 2005.

After Heeb's departure from Bell City to Scott County Central, the MSHSAA received a complaint filed by Bell City, according to correspondence obtained by the Southeast Missourian in an open records request.

The correspondence, sent from Becky Oakes, who was then MSHSAA executive director, was dated Jan. 28 and came at the conclusion of her review of the MSHSAA investigative committee's report on the complaint.

In the letter, Oakes informed Scott County Central officials "it is my opinion that there is sufficient evidence to support a finding that a school violation of By-Laws 216 and 102 has occurred on this matter."

The board of directors did not take action on the report in its Jan. 26 meeting.

Scott County Central was informed in the correspondence of its right to appeal.

The MSHSAA appeals committee met in March and the matter was forwarded to the board of directors, which heard more information Saturday in its closed session at Tan-Tar-A resort.

In a press release issued Saturday, the MSHSAA said after reviewing accounts from school administrators and other witnesses, the board determined Heeb "committed prohibited forms of persuasion or undue influence." The board determined evidence existed that Heeb contacted students and parents of students at Bell City in an attempt to influence those students to enroll at Scott County Central for the purpose of playing sports.

In addition to the actions against Heeb, the board placed Scott County Central on probation for three years beginning in the 2006-07 school year. The probation will call for Scott County Central officials to meet with an MSHSAA staff member to review association by-laws and procedures for compliance.

Holland said the school does not plan any legal action to appeal the decision.

"It's a dead issue on our part," Holland said. "We took it through the channels with the state association. Coach Heeb wants to be cooperative and get on with his career.

"Speaking to both school districts, I think we're both happy to put this behind us and move on."

The complaint was part of an acrimonious relationship between Scott County and Bell City after Heeb decided to leave Bell City for his alma mater. The two schools canceled their regular-season meeting in 2005-06. They did play March 7 in a Class 1 state sectional game that Bell City won 82-51 on the way to a second-place finish in the state tournament.

Heeb, who played for Ronnie Cookson at Scott County Central, had built a Bell City program whose previous state playoff history consisted only of a third-

place finish in 1981 into a state power. It had not won any other district titles before Heeb's teams rolled off four in his five seasons.

He returned to Scott County, hoping to reestablish a program that won 12 state titles in 13 final four appearances for Cookson between 1976 and 1993.

"This will slow us up a tad but not much," said Holland.

Heeb will be able to direct practices for the team. "He's still the man in charge," Holland said.

As for who will be on the bench when Heeb cannot coach, Cookson is one candidate.

"It's early to speculate but I'd be foolish not to have thought about it," said Holland, who added that he and incoming principal Lennies McFerren -- both former coaches -- have no interest in adding that to their administrative duties. "Ronnie Cookson has always done whatever that district has asked of him. That would be a pretty good backup plan, but it's up to the board to approve that.

"Our kids still will be in good hands with coach Heeb coordinating practices. It's probably set up to be handled as well as it can be."

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