Violations among Pop Warner teams that led to the cancellation of the 2004 playoffs are expected to increase as team-by-team investigations are conducted by the Arizona Youth Football Federation, commissioner Vicki Gamby said Thursday.
Gamby said association presidents and coaches should receive some information in the next two weeks so they can look into discrepancies.
Gamby said between 8,000 and 9,000 children participate in Pop Warner football in Maricopa, Pinal, Gila and Yavapai counties, which the federation oversees. She told KNXV-TV (Channel 15) in a Sept. 23 interview six violations had been identified at that time and the board had not yet started a full investigation.
"We are very early into what we are doing so six is going to increase a lot," she said Thursday.
Gamby did not say why she believed the number of violations would increase and would not say which teams, participants or adults were involved.
The federation executive board, which announced the cancellation of the playoffs in a Sept. 7 memo, began combing through each of the 200 teams this week to ensure everyone was playing by the rules.
"All of these people on the federation board have either been through the program, have children in the program or have had children in the program," Gambyshe said. "I have nine grandchildren and am not out to hurt children. None of us are. We have to look at everyone as a whole and everyone should have an even playing field."
She said the board also has an obligation to avoid possible litigation.
"What if a child were hurt by another player that was illegal? Can you imagine the lawsuit from that?" she asked.
Rhett Turner, president of the Southeast Valley Youth Football Association, which authored recent petitions calling for the resignation of federation board members and reinstatement of the playoffs, said there's plenty of time to conduct investigations.
"We are asking them to get it done," he said. "They should have waited before they sent out a memo, and those teams who were found to be cheating should have been disqualified, and those who weren't should have been allowed to go to the playoffs. It's not fair to punish everyone."
Gamby said investigating all of the teams is a huge undertaking and will take time.
"We don't have answers for everything yet and there are 200 teams, so you see with that alone why it's not an easy or quick process," she said.
Federation bylaws require a two-thirds vote of the 19 association presidents to remove current board members. The association presidents meet once a month and the vote would have to be taken at two consecutive meetings. The earliest the board could be forced out would be November, the month in which playoffs usually begin — and a month before Gamby's term expires.
As of Thursday evening, Turner said he has eight or nine association presidents committed to supporting the resignation petition while six associations are on the record as not supporting it.
Gamby said this is not the first time there has been cheating such as the falsification of address information, overweight or overage players, or the "stacking" of teams — pulling players from outside team borders to form a stronger, more athletic team. She said the playoffs were cancelled between 1988 and 1995, but were reinstated due to numerous requests.
"Now we're right back where we started," she said.