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Ariana Grande to leave Boca, return to Manchester for benefit concert

EXCLUSIVE: Ex-Boynton Beach coach Korey Banks says Tigers illegally recruit players

A former Boynton Beach High School assistant football coach was turned down for a job at Santaluces High because of allegations of recruiting players. That assistant now is accusing Boynton of the same thing — recruiting players.

“It’s my turn to talk about the truth,” Korey Banks told The Palm Beach Post. “[Boynton Beach High School is] bringing allegations on me for recruiting, but they’re still calling kids.”

While the Florida High School Athletic Association forbids recruiting, allegations of recruiting misconduct have been going on for years between schools. But it is rare for a coach to make such explosive allegations publicly, and by naming coaches and schools.

The saga began Dec. 13 when Banks was hired away from Boynton Beach to become the head football coach at his alma mater, Santaluces.

But by Jan. 19, the former standout defensive back who went on to play college and professional football was out of a job.

Santaluces withdrew its offer after learning of allegations raised by Boynton Beach that Banks, who served as Boynton’s defensive coordinator last season, tried to lure players to Santaluces while he still was a Boynton assistant.

Boynton Beach High School filed documents to the FHSAA claiming that Banks contacted between 10-15 Boynton players, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which first reported the allegations. Many Boynton school officials said they expected those players to follow Banks to Santaluces, according to the paper.

According to FHSAA bylaws, representatives of a school’s athletic interests are forbidden from direct or indirect contact — whether in person or through written or electronic communication — with a student or any member of the student’s family in an effort to pressure or entice them to attend a different school for the purpose of playing sports.

It is difficult to prove recruiting misconduct. According to a 2011 Post story, at least 16 written complaints about recruiting were pursued by the FHSAA, but only two cases resulted in penalties against Palm Beach County high schools between 2007 and early 2011.

Banks said he decided to speak to The Palm Beach Post to clear his name. In doing so, he also accused members of Boynton Beach’s coaching staff of doing the very thing they allege he did — improperly contacting players in an effort to recruit them to play for the Tigers.

Banks told the Post he did not file a complaint with the FHSAA because the process to do so is cumbersome.

“I have to go through hundreds of steps to prove somebody wrong,” he said. “At the end of the day, look at the facts.”

The FHSAA may well be taking that step.

The organization confirmed earlier this month it had received an allegation regarding the Boynton Beach football program and that it is in the process of reviewing it. The school is not currently under investigation, per se, an FHSAA spokesperson said. The spokesperson would not say what the allegations were about, and Boynton Beach officials declined to comment on this story, citing the FHSAA review.

“It left a bitter taste in my mouth,” Banks said of being hired and then fired by Santaluces, as well as the accusations made against him by coaches he once worked closely with. “Certain people get privileges in this game that don’t even deserve them. I didn’t get them.”

The ‘right choice’ at first

Initially, Banks was eager to take over at Santaluces. And the Chiefs were eager to have him after their football team went 0-10 this past year and was 5-25 over the previous three seasons.

“After interviewing five strong candidates, we decided that Korey was the right choice,” the school said in a statement after he was hired. “We couldn’t look past the fact that Korey played and graduated from Santaluces.”

But the bloom wore off quickly.

Banks said he was told by Santaluces administrators to keep his hiring quiet from Boynton Beach coaches — he remained on the Boynton campus as a substitute teacher — and he was fine with that.

“Let them be the first to announce it,” he said.

Despite repeated attempts by the Post, Santaluces officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

But Boynton players and coaches found out. And they weren’t happy about being left in the dark.

At first, “I had to tell people I didn’t get the [Santaluces] job,” Banks said. “I guess they took it as I lied to them. They saw me talking to kids at the school, which I do all the time, with everybody, not just athletes. I have teenage boys. I can relate to them. They all want to talk, and it can be about whatever.”

Boynton Beach coaches considered those conversations improper, and, as the Sun-Sentinel reported, they presented a number of recruiting allegations to the FHSAA, which in turn left it up to Santaluces to investigate.

His coaching offer was withdrawn a short time later, and the school hired longtime area coach Brian Coe on Jan. 27. Banks never held a practice at Santaluces and conducted just one team meeting.

Banks, who attended Mississippi State University, was on the Miami Dolphins’ practice squad, and later spent 10 seasons in the Canadian Football League, said he never tried to recruit any Boynton Beach players to come to Santaluces.

“What kid is going to want to come to an 0-10 team?” he asked. “If I’m that good, I’ll take the credit.”

Several Boynton Beach players, speaking under the condition of anonymity, expressed support for their former coach, saying he wouldn’t steer a player to another school.

“Coach Banks would never do that,” said one, a senior.

“Coach Banks knows everybody,” another player added. “He wasn’t necessarily recruiting them to Santaluces.”

Accusations from the accused

Banks claims Boynton Beach head football coach Errick Lowe and his assistants improperly recruited more than a dozen players to Boynton last season, promising them the opportunity to play for a winning team and earn college scholarships.

According to the FHSAA, student-athletes can transfer from one public school to another outside their attendance boundary for a variety of reasons, with choice program opportunities being the most common. Student-athletes also can receive exemptions for other district-approved reasons.

A Boynton Beach official said the school could not comment on any allegations while its football program is under FHSAA review.

“Do you think they would have gone to the playoffs with no [influx of] talent?” Banks asked of the Tigers, who finished 6-4 last season and made the playoffs after going 4-6 in 2015 and missing the postseason. “How did they go to the playoffs out of the blue like that? They’re recruiting kids all the time. I have text messages. This is what they do.”

Banks’ text messages — copies of which he provided to the Post — appear to show conversations between Boynton coaches in which they discuss their efforts to lure players to the Tigers program.

Banks said he was included in those conversations, but rarely contributed to them.

“I didn’t comment because they would group text over 70 to 80 times a day,” he said.

The texts also appear to reveal that coaches contacted players directly. Of the three players mentioned in the texts, two played last season for a south county school and the other for a school in central county. Messages to those players seeking comment were not returned, while the athletic director for one of the schools did not comment when reached.

“I talk to (player’s name withheld) today, and he says he want to come, but we have to talk to dad or his brother,” read one text, in reference to one of the south county players.

“Working on (name withheld) from (central country school),” read another text. “He thinks he won’t be eligible if he leaves.”

All three players stayed at their schools last season.

But some did not.

One Tigers player, a senior who previously played at another central county school, confirms he was lured to Boynton Beach with the promise of playing for a winning team.

The player, speaking to the Post under the condition of anonymity, said he had multiple conversations with Lowe during youth football practices in Boynton Beach and decided to transfer for his senior year.

The experience was a disappointing one, the player said, and he has since returned to his original school.

“Coach Lowe said Boynton was going to have the best season, and he wanted me to come play for him,” the player said. “He wanted my cousin to come also. He kept asking me to tell him to come.”

He later added, “He sold me a dream.”

Banks said he was aware of the conversations between Boynton coaches and potential transfer players, but chose not to speak out because he didn’t want to be perceived as a whistleblower. He also said he didn’t find anything wrong with a player switching schools if it led to scholarship offers.

“At the end of the day, I don’t care if a kid leaves me or not, as long as the kid gets to college,” he said. “That’s all I care about. I don’t care if that kid is going to play at Boca High School, as long as he gets to college. That’s all I’m in it for. I don’t get paid any money.”

Banks said he did not attempt to recruit any players while on the Boynton Beach staff despite being included on the coaches’ text chain.

“I never talked to any of those kids,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be at Boynton High School for long. That was just to help out the city. I could have gone to six or seven different high schools. I just chose Boynton High School.”

Banks said Lowe continues to illegally recruit football players.

One of them, a sophomore for the Tigers last season, received numerous calls from Boynton Beach coaches despite his wish to play for another south county school next year, the boy’s mother told the Post.

The boy attends a private school in Broward County that doesn’t have a football team, which means he can play sports for a school within his home boundaries. Boynton Beach High is not within those boundaries, the mother said. She went on to say that no one at Boynton asked about the legality of her son playing for the Tigers last year despite the family being zoned for a different south county school.

On top of that, the mother said, even though her son told school officials that he didn’t want to return to Boynton Beach, Tigers coaches continued to contact him.

A month ago, the athlete’s mother emailed a letter to Boynton Beach administrators, in which she told the school’s football coaches to stop contacting her son.

“For the past two weeks, all the coaches have been calling him, and I find that very disrespectful,” she said in the letter, a copy of which Banks provided to the Post.

The school stopped calling after the letter was received, the mother said. She said her son now is weighing where — and if — he will play football next season.

For a look at FHSAA administrative policies, click here.

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