CLEVELAND — With the playoffs set to begin in a week, one of Northeast Ohio's most-accomplished high school football coaches finds himself in hot water.
Villa-Angela St. Joseph head coach Jeff Rotsky has been suspended for the first three rounds of the postseason after the Ohio High School Athletic Association found both he and the school guilty of recruiting violations. According to the OHSAA's board of directors, Rotsky "had impermissible contact with student-athletes and their families at a northeast Ohio basketball league" last December, when the coach was making the transition from his previous stop at Euclid.
In addition, VASJ received a fine of $5,000 and was also found to have wrongfully added a transferred player to its team after failing to get his paper work in on time. However, the latter issue was determined to be an error and the unnamed player's eligibility was restored, with a $100 fine also being waived due to the previous financial penalty.
According to high school football website MaxPreps, VASJ's roster is 94 players deep this season, compared to just 61 last year. This led to questions as to how the team and coaching staff were able to bring in so many new names so quickly. Rotsky has strongly denied any wrongdoing through his legal representation, vowing to sue the OHSAA.
Attorneys Ian Friedman and Eric Long released the following statement:
"The action taken by the OHSAA in sanctioning Coach Rotsky came the same day that they were forced to overturn another baseless sanction brought against the team. Instead of accepting that they were wrong, they have opted to retaliate by immediately bringing this action. They will now be met with the same fate as another lawsuit will be filed against them forthwith. When we are done, our hope is that the OHSAA will finally acknowledge that Coach Rotsky’s success, and that of his players, is the result only of hard work and dedication. The intensity and principle that he is known for will now be seen in the legal arena and his winning tradition will continue."
Rotsky won 172 combined games at St. Peter Chanel, Maple Heights, Cleveland Heights, and Euclid before taking the VASJ job. The once-mighty Vikings had fallen on hard times and finished just 1-7 the year before his arrival, but are 6-1 in 2021 are the No. 2 seed in Division IV's Region 13.
VASJ was scheduled to host Padua Franciscan last Friday night in its regular season finale, but the game was canceled due to unspecified issues. The Vikings are now set to play 15th-seeded Hawken in this Friday's opening postseason round, with Rotsky only able to return to the sidelines if his team reaches the regional finals.