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Jon Knight has guided North Central to 11 consecutive state cross country championships. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

North Central boys cross country team placed on probation for recruiting violations

One of the most successful high school athletic programs in Spokane history has been placed on probation for recruiting violations.

The North Central boys cross country program – winner of 10 straight state championships – faces numerous penalties handed down last month by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

The penalties stem from the actions of assistant coach Len Long, who earlier this school year distributed DVD videos and other promotional material to select athletes at elementary schools outside the North Central attendance area.

District 81 has a policy of open enrollment, meaning that elementary and middle school students are free to enroll in any high school within the district.

However, distribution of the video is a violation of WIAA rule 27.0.0 – specifically a section stating that “No member school and no one acting on behalf of any member school shall give any speech or give any slide, film or tape presentation or distribute any written material which states or implies that a member school’s athletic program is better than the athletic program of any other member school or that it would be more advantageous for any prospective student-athlete to participate in athletics at that member school as opposed to any other school.”

Long’s actions took place without the knowledge of head coach Jon Knight, according to NC principal Steve Fisk, who added that the violations came to light through an email “sent by a parent in the Greater Spokane area.”

Fisk said on Tuesday that NC has handled the situation “like anything else – you follow through on what your agreements are.”

After learning of the alleged violations, the Greater Spokane League activity coordinators sent findings and proposed corrective action and sanctions to the WIAA District 8 Board of Directors.

“We take these matters very seriously,” said Shawn Jordan, the district’s Supervising Director of Secondary Programs and Special Services.

The subject was tabled pending questions posed to North Central administrators. At a special hearing on May 26, Fisk shared with board members the school’s proposed remedies. Among the highlights:

  • The program will not engage in any outside elementary and middle school contact for three years;
  • That Fisk and Knight will work with WIAA District 8 Director Herb Rotchford to build transparency;
  • That NC will compile a list of offended parties, arrange individual meetings with the intention of apologizing and mending fences with coaches and other individuals.