The Arizona Interscholastic Association's executive board has placed the Mesa High boys basketball team on probation for one year on a recruiting violation. The penalty will keep the Jackrabbits out of this year's postseason, but will expire before next year's state tournament.
Mesa reported a violation of AIA recruiting bylaws last month concerning transfer Blondy Baruti, who came to Mesa High last fall from the Congo. Baruti ended up living with the parents of Mesa assistant boys basketball coach Brandon Blitz after separating from his guardian.
Mesa took action last month and forfeited 10 wins it had accumulated through early January.
"The board, in looking at the facts that were brought forward, determined that the necessary sanction was probation," said Chuck Schmidt, the chief operations officer at the AIA.
Mesa coach Shane Burcar thought the game forfeitures were more than enough.
"If what we did was deliberate, then fair enough," he said. "But we shouldn't be on probation because we didn't do anything wrong."
Mesa is given the opportunity to appeal, but likely will not.
Mesa district athletic director Steve Hogen said he was disappointed in the decision, but if the team had to be placed on probation, he was glad it took place this year.
The forfeitures of the earlier games gave Mesa a slim chance of making this year's state tournament.
"Though I'm disappointed, at least it didn't extend to two years," Hogen said.
Before the decision was made, Mesa needed to win the East Valley Region tournament in order to qualify for the state tournament.
Now, its season is over.
The Jackrabbits were scheduled to play Tuesday night against Mesa Westwood, but forfeited that game. Westwood will move on to play Mesa Mountain View today.
Burcar wasn't aware that his game would get canceled if the team was put on probation.
"We were prepared and ready to play," Burcar said. "The timing was bad. We were told five hours before our game."
The players were notified 2 minutes after Burcar got the word.
"You feel bad for the players the most, especially the seniors," Hogen said.
While Burcar doesn't agree with the decision, he isn't interested in keeping the issue alive any longer.
"We'll just take our medicine and go forward," he said.