Jordan Principal Bob Dowdle didn't think the demise of USC at Woodland Hills would have much to do with him or his school.
Then, about two weeks ago, he had a half dozen boys, all former students of USC, show up at school asking to transfer to Jordan High. The paperwork was filed and the transfers were approved by the Utah High School Activities Association.
But last week six more students showed up, including the son of USC's owner Bob Jones, and there began to be rumors of recruiting or of some organized effort to stay together.
"It's difficult," Dowdle said. "When I sniffed that there could be any kind of migration, I sat down with my coaches and had a very frank discussion. I told them that we would obey all of the UHSAA rules and if I found out there was any (impropriety) I would deal with it immediately."
UHSAA executive director Dave Wilkey said he felt Jordan High had done everything they could to surmise why so many football players chose to transfer to Jordan after USC closed it's doors in August.
"It's a concern to everybody," said Wilkey. "But Jordan has done an excellent job of trying to determine true motives, including individual interviews with students and parents. They're asking all of the right questions to find out why they're there. So far, there is no real evidence of athletic transfers."
Wilkey said it wasn't until the second six boys applied for eligibility at Jordan that anyone thought the transfers might be athletically motivated.
"When the initial group came through, there was nothing that indicated anything unusual," said Wilkey referring to the first six who transferred at the beginning of the school year. "I just got the second group of six this morning, and we'll make a decision later this week."
Dowdle said one of the issues that was raised was that of the players' relationship with Jordan assistant coach Antwoine Sanders. The former University of Utah and NFL football player coached at USC until he and Jones had a falling out this summer. Jones told the Deseret News in early August that he had "released" Sanders and that he knew he was working at Jordan High. Apparently Sanders was hired to be an assistant at Jordan before USC told students the school would not be open this school year.
But none of the boys said Sanders had anything to do with their decision to transfer to Jordan. Dowdle said it's been a difficult situation to deal with, especially because the students are in a tough spot.
"We just decided we needed to meet with the families of the second group of boys," Dowdle said. "We asked them if they'd been approached by any coach at Jordan. None of them have. I want Jordan to do things the right way, and we have no indication that there's anything going on."
He said some of the students indicated they didn't feel returning to their boundary school was an option.
"They left their boundary school to go to USC to find something different," said Dowdle. "A lot of them are opting to come to Jordan because they really do want something different."
A number of students have also shown up at Cottonwood High, although most of them appear to be students who live within the boundaries of Cottonwood. Wilkey said he had only a few applications for transfer to Cottonwood.
Colts head coach Cecil Thomas said it is a difficult situation to try and assimilate new students into a team that has been working together for more than a year, but everyone is trying to make the best of the situation.
"I just told my guys that it's not these kids' fault," Thomas said. "They'll do some (conditioning) and then we'll turn them loose and see if they can compete for a job. I asked my guys to put themselves in their shoes. This situation is not their fault. Their school closed."
Getting official transcripts has been an issue for some students, but Wilkey said former principal Mike Condie signed the transcripts of the six boys applying for transfer to Jordan and they will consider that good enough.
Dowdle said ultimately Jordan is a public school, and any student who wants to attend can classes. Whether or not students can participate in sports is up to the UHSAA. And while the principal sees the value in athletics, that is not his main concern."We've worked very hard to get the proper documentation for these students," Dowdle said. "It's important for us to determine where they are academically. Sports are great, and I am aware of the things they teach; but graduation is my goal."
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