Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Prime Prep officials never knew the rules, were too impatient to have success in UIL
Prime Prep Academy has a nice vision, as displayed on its website:
“The Vision of Prime Prep Academy is simple: to transform the lives of every student by providing a quality education that fosters creativity, collaboration and character.”
Time will tell whether that goal is fulfilled, but the vision is nice and simple. Unfortunately for Prime Prep, its vision for competing in the University Interscholastic League was wildly oversimplified. And that’s why Prime Prep has announced it’s leaving the UIL.
Prime Prep, founded by D.L. Wallace and former NFL star Deion Sanders, wanted to be an athletic powerhouse right away. The key to that was a star-studded basketball lineup that could be one of the best teams in the nation.
The problem was getting those players eligible. And how can four star players from Arlington Grace Prep follow their coach to Prime Prep and not be questioned about whether they were transferring for athletic purposes?
These guys are big-time stars. Emmanuel Mudiay is one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2014, senior Jordan Mickey has signed with LSU and senior Karviar Shepherd is orally committed to TCU. Prime Prep’s founders, as well as Grace Prep-turned-Prime Prep coach Ray Forsett, seemed to think that the players only would need a signed Previous Athletic Participation Form to be eligible.
It’s not that simple. Certainly not when the transfers are as high-profile as these guys.
“I’m surprised and I’m outraged,” Wallace said after three players were declared ineligible by the District 11-3A executive committee last month. The UIL state executive committee denied their appeals, and Mickey, who was originally ruled eligible by the 11-3A committee, was later ruled ineligible.
Wallace told my colleague Corbett Smith on Thursday that the DEC’s decision to revisit Mickey’s eligibility was the breaking point.
“Who’s to say they wouldn’t revisit everyone else?” he said. “If our football team scored a touchdown, would they try to revisit who scored that touchdown?”
Melodramatic, obviously, but Wallace wasn’t feigning outrage. I really believe that he is angry and shocked, because he and Sanders truly didn’t know what they were getting into.
There are dozens of sketchy transfers every year in the UIL in multiple sports. We all know that, and it’s difficult to police. It’s hard to prove anyone transfers solely for athletic purposes.
But Prime Prep was trying to make a big splash right away. And when you do that with four players transferring along with their coach, the ripple effect is that every player you get in the future is going to be scrutinized.
It’s simply not as easy to build a champion when you have to play by the UIL’s rules. For most programs, it takes time to build a winner. You need patience, and Prime Prep didn’t want to wait.
Now Prime Prep doesn’t have to wait. Those players declared ineligible by the UIL can form a powerhouse basketball team, and I’m happy that they get a chance to play. But as I wrote last month, it would’ve been a farce if those transfers were ruled eligible by the UIL.
It would’ve made the rule pointless.