Notre Dame Preparatory officially filed an appeal Wednesday, Oct. 26 against the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s postseason ban for the school’s violation of two AIA bylaws involving recruiting and an out-of-season football class.
“Today, we have advised the Arizona Interscholastic Association of our intent to appeal the probation,” NDP Principal Jerry Zander said in a Wednesday, Oct. 26 email sent to parents of NDP football players.
“The appeal will be formally filed on Thursday, Oct. 27, prior to the deadline given to us by the AIA. We know this situation and the ensuing negative publicity has been difficult, particularly for your children. On behalf of the entire administration, we are deeply grateful for your prayerful support.”
The email, shared with the Scottsdale Independent, is in response to a meeting parents held Oct. 25 with NDP President James Gmelich.
The AIA has yet to render a decision on the matter. Playoff seeds will be announced Saturday, Oct. 29 after the final week of play in the regular season.
Notre Dame Prep (7–2, 4–0 region) clinched the top spot in the Northeast Valley Region and normally would get an automatic berth into the 5A playoffs.
With the probation in place, however, NDP will not continue its season after Friday, Oct. 28’s game against Vista Grande High School unless the AIA decides to lift the ban.
Rob Fisher, father of junior running back/strong safety Cole Fisher, said many parents are frustrated players are the ones that suffer with the probation.
“It’s frustrating and embarrassing that my 16-year-old son has to suffer for the Notre Dame Prep leadership,” Mr. Fisher said.
Not only are parents upset with the school’s leadership, but student-athletes are as well. Mr. Fisher said several players walked out on a team meeting and practice during the early part of the week.
“It gives the impression the coach has lost the team,” Mr. Fisher said. “Or that players don’t trust the coach, they don’t believe in the system; you can take it however you want.”
The AIA reached its decision to put Notre Dame Prep on probation at its Oct. 17 executive board meeting, giving the school 10 days to appeal.
The school did not immediately file an appeal, prompting parents to pressure the school to remove Mr. Gmelich and NDP Head Coach Mark Nolan from their positions. The school suspended Coach Nolan for Friday’s game, Mr. Fisher said in an Oct. 26 phone interview.
In addition to a meeting where parents shared their frustrations with Mr. Gmelich, attorney Jordan Rose sent a letter to the Phoenix Diocese, calling for action and the removal or suspension of both Mr. Gmelich and Coach Nolan.
Some parents sent similar letters to Mr. Gmelich and Coach Nolan demanding they step down.
A petition demanding a change in Notre Dame Prep leadership has reached about 760 signatures and has 245 comments, surpassing the listed goal of 500 signatures.
News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 623-445-2738