Two Paso Robles High School football players who transferred from Northern California and have family connections to former head coach Larry Grant received different fates Thursday when the CIF-Southern Section made a decision concerning their eligibility.
Sincere Jackson, a senior cornerback who transferred to Paso Robles from Serra High School in San Mateo, can join the Bearcats’ varsity football team on Oct. 2 following the standard sit-out period, the CIF-Southern Section ruled. He will be eligible for the Bearcats first PAC-5 league game of the season against Arroyo Grande on Oct. 6.
However, the CIF-Southern Section, the governing body for high school sports in the area, ruled that Frederick Thompkins, a stand-out wide receiver and safety who transferred from Kimball High in Tracy, will not be eligible to join the varsity football team for his senior season. Thompkins is “limited to lower levels (JV or lower) in football for the entire 2017 season,” according to the ruling.
The decision deals a blow to a Paso Robles varsity football program that has started the season 0-3. Thompkins was selected by his teammates as the defensive captain and was expected to be a major contributor this season on both offense and defense.
Questions surrounding their transfers came to light after a story published by The Tribune in August. Either Grant or the school failed to file the proper transfer paperwork with the CIF-Southern Section concerning Thompkins and Jackson until a week before the season’s first game, despite both players having practiced with the team since spring, and the circumstances of their transfers were investigated by the CIF-Southern Section.
Last week, former Paso Robles head coach Rich Schimke — who was fired last fall from his coaching job after 19 years but retained as a Paso Robles High School teacher following a locker room incident — blamed the school district during a Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting for the mishandling of the transfers and defended Grant.
“We have a full-time (athletic director Anthony Morales) at the high school. We have a full-time district athletic director (Rich Clayton). We have a varsity football coach (Dave Lambert), who was a school board member. ... We have a district police officer on varsity staff, and we have a superintendent (Chris Williams) who all knew these boys were at Paso Robles High School as far back as March or April,” Schimke said. “When I was coaching before this regime, that would have never happened. At the least they should have known if they were going to be eligible, not eligible, etc.
“Coach Grant has never been a head coach before and should have been guided better on that account.”
Both players applied for a hardship transfer, according to CIF-Southern Section Assistant Commissioner Thom Simmons, a transfer option that is rarely approved, he said.
“I can’t go in to specifics because you are talking about student privacy,” Simmons told The Tribune following the ruling. “I can only tell you that the two individuals... the determination was based on CIF-Southern Section and CIF State bylaws.”
Jackson told The Tribune in August that he decided to transfer from Serra, one of the top programs in the Bay Area and the state, after an injury-plagued junior season. He said he received a call from Grant, his father’s cousin, who told Jackson that if he came to Paso Robles he would get more playing time, excel in school and possibly catch the eye of college scouts.
Grant, with approval from their parents, filed for temporary guardianship of Thompkins, 17, and Jackson, 16, on Aug. 25, the same day the players sat out of Paso Robles’ first game of the season, according to San Luis Obispo Superior Court filings obtained by The Tribune.
“Sincere (Jackson) suffered verbal abuse at the hands of one of his coaches at his previous high school... during his junior year,” reads the temporary guardianship petition that was ultimately approved Sept. 7 and will expire in December. “The coach would constantly ridicule him in front of other players and would basically allow other students to join in. It affected Sincere beyond the sport, it bled over into his everyday.”
The name of coach involved in the alleged bullying was not included in the document. Serra commented on the allegations in a written statement to The Tribune but declined to provide further details.
“The Serra administration conducted a thorough investigation during the summer and did not find anything of a serious nature to support these allegations,” Serra High School director of media and public relations Antonia Ehlers said. “All of the correct forms regarding the student’s transfer were properly filed on our end and received by the Southern Section on August 22. We wish this young man well in his future endeavors as a student-athlete.”
Thompkin’s guardianship application cited educational and medical reasons to “help further his education away from negative social influences.”
Thompkins participated in Paso Robles’ spring football game at the end of the last school year, which coincided with the unveiling of a brand new turf field, and had an interception return for a touchdown in the scrimmage.
Simmons said Paso Robles High School was not found to violate CIF bylaws involving “undue influence” in recruiting a player to another school and will not face any additional discipline concerning the transfers.
Both players are currently living with Grant in Paso Robles, according to the documents. Neither Grant nor Morales could be reached by The Tribune for comment.
Without either player, the Paso Robles football team will go for its first win of the season on the road Friday night against Clovis North.