Krop High's basketball team played Hialeah-Miami Lakes for the District 13-6A championship on Saturday night. The fact the Lightning -- a preseason favorite to win the state title -- are even in the playoffs is the result of a court injunction that the school lawyers won on Wednesday, 24 hours before the start of the state playoffs.
The Florida High School Athletic Association had told Krop it could not advance to the district tournament because the school had failed to file necessary paperwork for guard Brian Delancy, a Bahamian national here on a student visa. The FHSAA said the team would have to forfeit the 19 games in which Delancy played, essentially wiping out the team’s 20-3 season.
Even though the Lightning won the decision -- and could be heading back to court very soon -- there are many who feel the Lightning are getting away with breaking the rules. Some allege Delancy's student visa is illegal and that he isn't living in Krop's school district, another potential violation that wouldn't have allowed him to be eligible this season. The Miami Herald will have an article in Sunday's paper detailing this further.
But on Friday night, Herald Sports Writer Manny Navarro and High School Sports Editor Andre C. Fernandez drove down to Krop to ask Krop coach Shakey Rodriguez about Delancy, his living situation, his VISA and why a former assistant of his at FIU and Miami High is listed as his legal guardian.
Rodriguez, who has long had a reputation of stacking his teams with illegal players and skirting the rules, maintains the argument Krop lawyer's made in court: How can he and other coaches be asked to request immigrant information from a student (the FHSAA requires the information from international students) when teachers and administrators are told that by law they are not allowed to ask those quetionans. Krop athletic director Mike Kypriss also spoke with Navarro on Saturday morning and answered a few questions. Here is what they were asked and said:
SHAKEY RODRIGUEZ INTERVIEW
Q: When did you first meet Bryan Delancy?
"I knew about Bryan when he was a 10th grader at Choice Academy. We played against him. We actually played against him. It wasn't Bryan. One of my former players, Thaddeus, approached me about Bryan possibly coming to school here. That was during the summer. My response was the same response I gave everybody. He needs to live in the area, with his guardian and make sure he's in here. Now, I've since learned a lot about this immigration stuff. Being in the public system all my life, I have never encountered anything like this. I can read it. I can read you the quotes and I can read the bylaws and I asked my registrar. It says you are not -- and it says the word must -- you must not any of these kids that come in for their immigration status. I have never equated that. I don't read the FHSAA handbook. I don't know if you've ever looked at it. But it would take a Harvard lawyer two years to decipher it. I'm a public school teacher and a coach. So, as far as that stuff, I'm not aware of it. Knowing that Bryan has been in the state for two years -- he played at Choice. He went to Westlake. That was my response. As I do with every kid that moves into the area with his guardian, that's all I'm going to tell you people. I know the kid was high-profile, he was going to bring a lot of attention, make sure whatever he does, it's the right thing. The next time I saw him was Sept. 20 when he came to our school."
Q: Was he in another school prior to Krop this school year?
"No. That I checked because I know if you do that your considered a transfer school within that same year and that would make you illegal. That I checked thoroughly."
Q: Is he living with your former FIU and Miami High assistant Bernard Wright?
"Bernard is his guardian as far as I know. The documentation is there. Does he live with him? I don't know. I don't go home with him. But I assume that's the case. I haven't see Bernard at one game yet. Well, I guess he was at the game yesterday. But I didn't see him."
Q: Is Bernard Wright living in the school district?
"Yes. I mean I don't know if he is. My understanding he is. Now, am I going to say do I go by [his house]? No. Am I chummy chummy with Bernard? People think I am. I'm not. Bernard coached with me a few years back when I was at FIU. I haven't had much relations with Bernard [since]. Bernard brought that kid [Delancy] in to go to Choice [Prep] when he first came in. He had problems at Choice. I don't know what that was. He's been floating around in this area, I guess, since. I know [Wright] lived -- somebody came out with a report [address] -- Bernard lived in Hialeah two years ago. I know that. I actually didn't know that. But I read it today. That's as far as I know.
Q: So do you know where Delancy lives?
"I know that our people thoroughly checked it. We had somebody visit the house. And he was submitted into school. I don't get paid enough to visit kids houses. I know he doesn't live that far because he walks here."
Q: The address that was turned into the FHSAA led us to an abandoned area.
"I don't know about that. I don't know what [address] was originally turned in. I know the address that's on there today. We went back and looked at it today."
Q: How have you been dealing with all this media attention and questions surrounding your team and his eligibility?
"My job is these kids. Right now it's very difficult with 18, 17, 19-year olds to be put in [this] situation. I understand the whole fairness situation and everything and everything everybody talks about. My job... I mean, it's ridiculous for a kid who is 19 years old, here in this country, trying to better himself. He's a kid. And he has adults everywhere scrutinizing him and getting on him and trying to figure out... My job is them. What these kids have gone through in the last week, I don't ever want to put anybody through that. That's my focus.
"Whatever other people are saying, we're following the rules as they've been stated to us. We weren't allowed to play, we didn't play. The court said we could play, we will play. If they say we can't play, we wouldn't have played.
"They say North Miami is getting [screwed]. North Miami won four games this year for god's sake. And you know what they didn't look at it right. North Miami Beach is the one getting screwed. You know what against North Miami , baller [Delancy] didn't play, didn't sit on that bench, didn't dress. They gave them that win. That should not have been a win. North Miami Beach by virtue of that should have been the fourth team. They should have done that right. So, no, North Miami is not getting screwed. And they had an option. At 3 o'clock they could have voted everybody in and this would have not been an issue. They chose not to. So, don't say we could have been in this thing. Everybody could have been in this and everybody should be in this thing. All teams should participate in the district tournament in basketball. Everywhere else it goes that way. Here they are worried about finances and some cockamamy excuse. B.S. They should all be in that. Hopefully that will change next year. I know the reason they didn't vote us in. They don't want us in there. But I think every team should have something to look forward to, something to play at the end of the year, regardless of who you are -- so incidents like this don't take place. When I coached at Miami High for many years everybody made the tournament. If you were fortunate enough to have a great year, you were seeded 1. If you weren't that good you were seeded eighth. But at least when the season ended, you had that one hope. That's what makes this thing exciting."
Q: Did you or have you considered sitting Bryan Delancy out even after the ruling?
"I don't think it would be fair to him. I don't think it would be fair to our team and if we believe in what we're doing, I don't think it's the right thing to do. I believe what we're doing is the right thing."
Q: Have you felt the need to speak up at all?
"I'll meet this head on because it's me. I've been told otherwise, but I'm through with all that. I haven't done anything wrong. I don't think any of these kids have done anything wrong. And I don't think we have anything to apologize for. That's my stance on all this stuff."
Q: Bernard Wright is looked at as somebody who has a checkered past. But you've known him a long time.
"I do know him. I know Bernard well. I don't know his ... I don't go drinking with Bernard. I'm not buddies. We don't hang out. It's not that kind of relationship. Yeah, he worked for me at FIU for one year. But I don't know what his checkered past is. All the BS [The New Times] brought out, 90 percent of it was false and unwarranted. I don't think Bernard is a bad guy at all. He's a pretty good guy in fact. I don't know what the checkered past means, but I don't know of any of it.
"When he was young I think he maybe scalped a few tickets, maybe got a few driving tickets. Something. I got something too. I wasn't an angel myself when I was a kid growing up."
Q: Do you know when Bryan Delancy's birthday is?
"I know he's 19 years old. I know we have the birth certificate, the original one and we have his passport and Visa and it all says the same thing September whatever. I can't even tell you. I don't know. I have seen it. And I've looked at it. And your welcome to see it if you need to see it. But that's what I know.
"I mean I went through this [expletive] with [Ceasar] Portillo [at Miami High] as well. Ceasar Portillo, to this day, I'm telling you, to me he was the right age. He had an original birth certificate. I even had an article on the kid when he was 12 years old with the date of the article. The article said 12-year old Ceasar Portillo. I sent that to the FHSAA. To this day. I've had lunch with Cesar [recently]. I said 'Cesar you like your old. Everybody busts my chops about it this to this day. Tell me how old you are.' Cesar said to me 'Coach why would I say anything differently now?' People have carried this story because it's me.
"I mean, I don't know. I wasn't there when Baller [Delancy] was born. I wasn't there when Cesar was born. I use the same things everybody else in Dade County uses. We look at birth certificates they have and we go by it. Based on all the documentation we have and what I believe -- yes [Delancy is 19 years old]."
Q: The question most people would like to know regarding Bryan is if his VISA is no longer valid. Is it?
"That's debatable. It says 2008 for 36 months. Then it says it expires 2010. Not 2009. Nowhere in the I-20 does it say that. How do you interpret that? If it says its good for 36 months, as a mathematician that's 2011. That's not really the question. It's not from Krop. It's from Choice. I understand that. And that's where the issue lies.
"My point is the same as our principal and AD. There is a handbook in Miami-Dade County and it says you are not to ask, must not ask these things. So, if our registrar can't ask -- and this is based on a Supreme Court decision in 1982. [Plyler] versus [Doe]. I didn't know all this. I've looked this up lately. [Plyler] versus [Doe]. And it says you cannot ask these things. Nowhere in the FHSAA handbook does it say you can, that it gives you permission. It says the player must show that documentation. Now, if I can't ask that, do I go to the FHSAA? I work for Dade County. I don't work for the FHSAA. I work for Dade County. And Dade County is based on a supreme court decision. So which one supersedes the other?
"I know what everybody is saying -- the rules. Let me tell you, if Baller [Delancy] was the only kid playing in Dade County that doesn't have that, then fine. I would understand that. But give me a break. Give me a break. Anybody with some common sense knows that there's tons of [illegal] kids in Miami-Dade that are playing. But because they don't play for Krop and they're not playing for Shakey Rodriguez they want to know all this stuff -- where does he live, who is he living with, where is his VISA. Despite all that, a court ruling decided that we could play on and we're going by that. I stand by that. If you want to ask a kid for their VISA, I'm not going to ask for it. Because my employer, Dade County [Public Schools], says your not supposed to."
Q: Did Choice Prep, Delancy's former school, terminate his VISA?
"I don't know if Choice has the right to [terminate a VISA]. All I know is this is a 19-year old kid that happens to be in the country that he doesn't know what adults are doing with this stuff. He's here to play ball and get an education. We're now working very hard to help this young man and make sure he doesn't get deported, that he does all the right things. We have an application already to get him residency. We're trying to help him get to college and live his dream in America like we did, you did, your parents did. That's what I'm trying to do. If he doesn't play another minute, that's fine. I don't give an [expletive]. But we are going to try to help this kid and we have been helping. But we didn't know."
Q: But aren't the athletic directors and coaches made aware of these rules by the FHSAA and Greater Miami Athletic Conference? Krop, after all, has had international students play on the tennis team before.
"They're told those kids have to provide that documentation because playing sports is a privilege. Not a right, which I also disagree, which is my personal opinion. I also disagree. I think playing sports is the right of a kid. If he's good enough to be admitted into a school and he carries the GPA and he does all the right things in that school, then he should be allowed to play. I was an immigrant. I came to this country as a young man, thank God, the greatest country on earth. And I was able to make a name for myself here and grow up here. I was afforded these rights. Now, we're going to take away these rights? Who gives? Because the FHSAA says so.
"I understand other people's positions. But people have to understand ours too. From my perspective, when has this come up anyway? When the hell has this ever come up? In the playoffs. We're going to wait until Krop is at the end of the season that were going to come forward with this information. And I don't know where it came from. People are blaming Carol City. I don't know. I think this is deeper than that. It goes way beyond that. Who is it coming from? I don't know. It doesn't matter. If you knew that all along, why not come at the beginning of the year? Why be malicious like that? Is that how we're going to supervise sports now in Dade County? We're going to tell on each other and run around every time we find illegal players? I don't care.
"People want to point the finger at Baller. Do you think there is a saintly school in this entire city? It's not the coaches fault. I don't blame any coach. We get paid peanuts to do this [expletive]. It's a labor of love. The time we put into this [expletive], the sacrifices we make in order to do this and what we do for these kids lives is remarkable. We have a tool we can use to shape their lives and guide them. And in today's day and age, my god that's important. Otherwise, you know what's going to happen. There's not much else. This is the saving grace for these kids. As educators, we dedicate our lives to this stuff.
"Now are we now being held accountable because a kid lives with his aunt or somebody else? I'm not visiting homes. If that's what it is, they can have this [expletive]. If I'm going to be held accountable because some kid has some immigration status [expletive] and I have to go some place -- that's, you can have it. It's enough what we do. I realize there are rules and we try to follow it the best we can with the knowledge we have. I'm personally tired of getting hit with stupidity. All I've done in this business is work the kids and I've dedicated my life to it. That's what I've done. If I wanted to make money I'd be doing something else for a living. You want to talk about the biggest waste of time to make money, coach. You aren't making nothing. I'm making the same as somebody out there dusting themselves off as a head golf coach. The only difference is I have a passion for what I do and I share with these kids and I take the time to put them in college and do whatever I have to do to help them in life. If this is the [expletive] I'm going to get out of this stuff, they can have it. Shakey Rodriguez doesn't need to be a part of this."
KROP ATHLETIC DIRECTOR MIKE KYPRISS
Q: Can we ask you a few questions about Bryan Delancy?
"I've basically stayed out of it because I'm really just waiting to see, there's possible litigation and I'm really instructed not to speak because of our attorney, Allen Goldfarb. The one statement I'm going to make is in the FHSAA by-laws, it doesn't give me the permission, there's nothing written enumerated that I can ask for an I-20. They may be able to tell you it's OK to. But what if I asked a kid for an I-20 and I got sued for discrimination. Who is going to defend me? That is my case. You of all people should know I've had foreigners playing for me throughout my history of coaching tennis. And the thing about it is my previous AD and the one before that ever ask me or did they ever ask for an I-20. All the different foreigners I've had come through my school."
Q: So you've never filed or had a player file an I-20 form to play for you? We're told this is common practice for athletic directors everywhere.
"Never in my entire life. Through all my history of 29 years and you've known me all those years never has my [athletic director] Pete Hertler at Killian, nor [former Krop ADs Ron] Rodriguez and nor Lori Nelson asked me for it. So when I was asked to file an I-20, for the superintendent to make the comment about 'How do we expect our administrators, I'm guessing our principal or coach Rodriguez to ask for an I-20 before 7:20 a.m. or after 2:20, that's a pretty good indicator it's never been enumerated in the FHSAA bylaws because the Florida legislative branch has probably never approved it. That's the only thing I can say. But to my defense, knowing me for so many years I've never been questioned with one my kids in tennis."
Q: The VISA is one issue, the other issue is who this kid is really living with and if he lives with somebody within your school district. Does he meet all that criteria?
"You know what my job is -- and you know this -- when those kids are admitted into my building those kids go to the registrar, we've done our work. If they require a visiting teacher to go out. Then, that's the visiting teachers job. That's not my job nor the teacher's job or the coach. That's my comment on that. I think you know me that I've been a pretty thorough guy my entire career and I'm pretty good at administration. You know I've been a people person. I have the utmost respect for the FHSAA. I've had to adhere to their guidelines for years. Palmetto wins big in softball or soccer. South Dade in wrestling. For Krop or Killian it was tennis and Northwestern it was football. What I'm getting at is we really have to make sure we're really careful with all of our kids."
Q: Coach Shakey Rodriguez has always had these recruiting rumors around him...
"It's been around me too in tennis. I can't apologize for parents moving kids in my district when we were dominating in tennis and they would call and say I really want my son or daughter to play for you. My answer to them was and still is -- move into the district and show me proper registration and then we can talk.
"I just want you to know I respect the work of guys like [wrestling coach] Vic [Balmaceda] at South Dade or the folks over at Palmetto. I just feel that you can't apologize if you're a coach that people want to come play for you and find a way to come into your school. I'm constantly answering the phone where parents call and say 'How can I get my kid in to come and play for coach Rodriguez.' I have to say 'Mam or sir, please move into the district and we can talk. But until that time, I'm not permitted to talk to you.' That's where I stand on that.
"Here's my issue. I'm just not allowed to ask. People may tell and if you were a coach of mine, the FHSAA may tell you 'Oh you have the right to [ask a kid for the I-20]. So if they tell you that, why don't they put it in writing to protect us?"
Q: Other athletic directors have said it's an easy process filing these I-20 forms, it takes five minutes. They say 'Coach Kypriss should know because he's had tennis players from other country's come play for him.'
"I've never had to do it in my entire life. I've been around 30 years and my previous ADs never did it. I went back and looked through the files, just to make sure of my predecessors. I spoke to Ron Rodriguez who is now retired in Naples who told me never once did we have to ask a kid for an I-20. You know how diverse our schools are in South Florida. I just don't have the written authority to [ask for the I-20]. You saw what the Superintendent said. That was a big strong quote in The Miami Herald. The bottomline is I really have to answer to two people other than God. That's my principal Doctor Welker and Mr. Carvalho, the Superintendent in charge of all of us. I put a lot of years in and I want to make sure we do things right."