Written by SportsDayDFW.com
UIL: Flower Mound Marcus' Marcus Smart maintains eligibility
Flower Mound Marcus basketball player Marcus Smart, whose family lives in a house owned by a team booster and pays less than market value rent, was ruled eligible Monday by the University Interscholastic League, a Lewisville ISD official said.
UIL representatives, including state executive committee chairman Mike Motheral, examined findings produced by the Lewisville ISD and the District 8-5A executive committee and found no rules violation, said Karen Permetti, the Lewisville ISD’s communications director.
On Thursday, the 8-5A committee ruled Smart eligible for a Saturday playoff game against Duncanville but said it needed clarification from the UIL regarding a rule. Marcus won and advanced to the third round of the playoffs.
UIL policy director Mark Cousins was not at the meeting but said the rule in question was the amateur rule, Section 441 of the UIL constitution, which prohibits an athlete from receiving “valuable consideration.”
That is defined as “any tangible or intangible property or service, including anything that is wearable, usable or salable.”
Permetti declined to discuss the specific reasons for the decision, citing the meeting as a closed session.
Lewisville ISD athletic director Randy Mayes did not respond to a call and text for interview, and District 8-5A chairman Steve Williams did not respond to e-mail interview requests. Permetti said they were driving back from Austin in the afternoon.
In February, The Dallas Morning News reported that Smart, since his transfer from Red Oak to Marcus his freshman year, has lived in a house owned by team booster Phil Forte.
The lease, provided by the Lewisville ISD, calls for the Smarts to pay $800 a month. Flower Mound real estate agents interviewed for the story estimated that fair market value for a house its size in that area, valued at around $140,000, would be $1,100 to $1,300 a month.
A comparative market analysis established that similar-size area properties were rented for an average of 77 cents per square foot, which would put rent for Forte’s house at $1,184 per month.
Forte called the $800 payment reasonable, saying in an e-mail that the home was occupied by someone with whom he was comfortable. He said that he never took calls regarding minor repairs and that the payment was enough to cover the interest and principal he paid.
UIL rules also prohibit recruiting, defined by the UIL as encouraging “a student in any way to change schools for the purpose of participating in UIL activities at any grade level.”
According to Section 5 of the UIL constitution, recruiting could include offering a student or a student’s parents “board or lodging.” According to Section 1203 of the 8-5A executive committee handbook, the improper inducement could come from a “school official or local fan.”
Permetti, the communications director, had said that the school reported the living arrangement to the district committee when it discovered the situation last fall.
When previously asked about his relationship with Smart, Forte said he has known him a long time and wanted him to be in a better environment and “on the right path.” Smart played AAU basketball with Forte’s son as far back as 2003.
The Smart family experienced two tragedies, Permetti said. In January 2004, Smart’s older brother, Todd Westbrook, 33, died of cancer. Before then, his uncle was permanently injured in a shooting incident when someone attempted to carjack him, Permetti said. She said Forte and his family leased the house because they wanted to help the Smarts, who are their friends.
“We were confident that Marcus Smart was an eligible player,” Permetti said. “We were confident that we had lived up to the standards for fair play.”
Marcus plays Lewisville at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the University of North Texas. Smart averages 13.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.