MIDVALE — Three football players were granted hardship waivers by a hearing panel for the Utah High School Activities Association on Friday afternoon.
Sesi and Sima Salt were allowed to transfer from Brighton to East, which is their home boundary school, because the panel found that the boys would never have left their home school were it not for undue influence. The family asked for a waiver because they said finding a ride to Brighton had become an unbearable burden. The boys transferred back to East nine months ago.
"(The panel) determined that but for the undue influence of an (assistant) coach at Brighton, (the players) would have been at East High," said UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner. "The hardship was that, based on the evidence presented, they found themselves in that position based on the undue influence."
Sesi Salt, a senior lineman, said he wouldn't have transferred to Brighton after playing football at East as a freshman were it not for the influence of Sione Mahe, who was at the time an assistant at Brighton. He no longer coaches for the Bengals.
Part of the sway he held over the boys, officials offered, was that he was their East High little league coach.
East High principal Dr. Paul Sagers said he didn't feel the pressure to attend Brighton was malicious, but it was against the rules.
"It's an unfortunate situation," Sagers said. "I think his heart was in the right place, and he was affectionate for the Brighton program."
It was not, however, a good fit for the boys, according to their mother. Sima Salt, who is a sophomore this year, said he never wanted to attend Brighton, but his parents made him go with his older brother. The boys said they received rides from Mahe and or his relatives.
Brighton's principal said she was aware the boys received rides to Brighton with an assistant coach, who was part of a carpool with other families in the Glendale area.
Brighton principal Charisse Hilton said that she felt the fact that Mahe coached Little League football in Glendale and was an assistant at Brighton was problematic and could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
"I understand exactly what he's talking about," she said referring to East coach Brandon Matich's assertion that it was problematic. "We've felt it too. I understand exactly."
She said that she felt the Salt boys had a quality experience at Brighton, and that they'd been offered great opportunities academically and athletically.
She said it was unfortunate that coach Mahe was not at Friday's hearing to speak for himself regarding the assertion that he persuaded the boys to attend Brighton.
In a second hearing, a senior football player was allowed to play after his former school protested his eligibility because he'd been suspended for violating school and UHSAA rules.
The boy's former school protested because they didn't want students who got in trouble to think they could avoid punishment simply by transferring schools. Part of the boy's punishment at the first school was being barred from all athletic opportunities.
The panel granted him eligibility because they felt the school that initiated the punishment did not offer the teen due process in handing down the punishment.
"We certainly will support and enforce school disciplinary action unless we determine, as we did here, that the action was taken without reasonable due process," Van Wagoner said. "That and the standard of discipline was inherently inconsistent and not applied to their own code."