By Greg Riddle
The University Interscholastic League ruled Monday morning that the 11-time state champion Duncanville girls basketball team will not be allowed to compete in the playoffs this season, and that coach LaJeanna Howard will be suspended for the rest of this school year because of a rules violation.
Less than an hour later, the UIL also stripped the Duncanville boys basketball team of its 2022 Class 6A state championship for use of an ineligible player. Coach David Peavy was given a one-year suspension, and the program was issued a three-year probation period and a public reprimand.
The Duncanville girls were also given a three-year probation, and the girls basketball assistant coaches and Duncanville ISD athletic director Dwight Weaver were given public reprimands. Going into the season, which starts Friday for UIL teams, the Duncanville girls were ranked No. 4 in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
Howard had already been suspended for two months and had been reassigned to an elementary school position by Duncanville ISD superintendent Marc Smith. But the UIL thought that a more severe punishment was needed.
It is the second time in four years that Duncanville has had a girls basketball coach suspended by the UIL. In 2019, former Duncanville girls basketball coach Cathy Self-Morgan was issued a three-year suspension from coaching and a public reprimand after the UIL ruled that she was guilty of recruiting violations. A three-year suspension is the maximum length that the UIL state executive committee can issue.
In August, two months before UIL teams are allowed to start practicing, Duncanville advertised on a flier that it was holding an open gym and that it was a “tryout.” At least one player from Arlington Bowie participated in the event. Bowie coach Kelly Carruthers said there were two players from her school who took part.
Howard denied that the event was a tryout and said that it was just an open gym. She said that Duncanville wasn’t aware at the time that there was an athlete from another school who participated, and she said Monday that the team could only substantiate that one player from outside of Duncanville ISD took part.
“It’s my job to check that all of the rules are being followed,” Howard said. “I take full responsibility for not double and triple checking.”
Carruthers said that the Bowie player in question (she wasn’t named) told her that she had made the JV team at Duncanville. Carruthers said the player in question was in the process of trying to enroll at Duncanville at the time of the incident, but was not enrolled yet at the school.
Howard again denied any wrongdoing.
“It was not a tryout,” Howard said. “They made a mistake and put tryout [on the flier]. I should have paid more attention to that. No kids were told they made a team.”
UIL athletic director Susan Elza said, “That’s sending red flags up all over the place. It shows coaches don’t have a grasp of the rules.”
Many times during Monday’s meeting, the UIL state executive committee brought up the 2019 suspension of Self-Morgan. She was ruled by the UIL to have recruited one of the nation’s best players — Deja Kelly — to transfer to Duncanville from San Antonio Johnson before her junior season. Kelly led Duncanville to the Class 6A state title as a senior, she was a McDonald’s All-American and she is now a first-team all-ACC guard at North Carolina.
Self-Morgan denied committing any violations that season or throughout her 42-year career. Two months before she was suspended, Self-Morgan had announced her resignation and had said that she planned to retire.
She finished her career with eight state championships and a record of 1,170-287. She won five state titles and had a record of 638-83 in 19 seasons at Duncanville.
The Duncanville girls basketball program was issued two years probation at the time. That means the UIL keeps a close eye on the team to make sure there are no further problems, and if there are, the punishment will be more severe than if it was a first offense. That probation had just ended about a year ago.
Howard replaced Self-Morgan as coach and won a state title in 2020 in her first season as Duncanville’s coach, then made back-to-back regional final appearances the last two years. Howard played for Duncanville’s state title team in 2003 and was on Self-Morgan’s staff when Duncanville went 39-0 and won the 6A state title in 2016.
Earlier this month, Duncanville assistant coach Jason Rogers sent The Dallas Morning News a list of five players who had transferred to Duncanville for this season — Imani Morris, Jasmine Gipson, Chloe Mann, Trystan James and Mariah Clayton. Morris is committed to Memphis, and Clayton was a standout at North Forney.
On Twitter: @DMNGregRiddle