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John Ehret coach Corey Lambert talks to players before the game against Walker-Landry Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, at Hoss Memtsas Stadium in Harvey.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

Corey Lambert has been fired as head football coach and removed from his assistant principal position at John Ehret High School.

The decision comes four months after the LHSAA informed the school that three of its sports programs would be suspended for up to one full calendar year over at least one transfer athlete's ineligibility to compete for the Patriots.

Following an appeal of the LHSAA's decision in March, Ehret's football, boys track and boys basketball teams were placed on probation for 12 months rather than barred from all competition. Nonetheless, Lambert's firing was confirmed by an Ehret official Thursday morning.

Neither officials at the school nor at the Jefferson Parish Public School System would comment on why Lambert was dismissed. In a statement, the school system only said it took "a personnel action (that) was warranted" after both the school system and the LHSAA conducted investigations into a complaint about the Ehret athletics program dating to at least February.

However, there are strong suggestions that officials blamed Lambert for the complaint, the nature of which is addressed in a letter that The New Orleans Advocate obtained Thursday through a public records request asking for documents pertaining to the coach as well as any LHSAA probes into the Patriots' athletics program.

In the letter dated March 21, LSHAA assistant executive director B.J. Guzzardo told Ehret Principal Maria Landry that it had reviewed the athletic eligibility of at least two transfer students, whose names were redacted. One of those players was eligible, but the other was ineligible to compete in any sports at the school until Feb. 10, 2018, Guzzardo wrote.

Guzzardo's letter claimed Ehret had submitted falsified information to the LHSAA about the ineligible athlete, who apparently enrolled at the Marrero school through a federal program that helps homeless youth attend classes at public campuses.

But the student's application to participate in the McKinney-Vento program at Ehret was never approved by the Jefferson school system, Guzzardo's letter said. It was only endorsed by the student's mother.  Legitimately joining the McKinney-Vento program would've made the student in question immediately eligible to play. 

As a result, the LHSAA initially told Ehret its boys would be suspended from competing in track, basketball and football for either one year or until the violation could be "assessed" by the organization's executive committee.

Ehret was also fined $1,000. And an official whose name was redacted was ordered to complete courses designed to teach participants the LSHAA's regulations as well as the "fundamentals of coaching." Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation Thursday said that official was Lambert.

Ehret exercised its right to appeal the decision. The LHSAA reduced the suspension of the teams to the probationary period, but it upheld the other punishments, officials said Thursday.

Lambert spent six years as head coach at his alma mater.

"We will set the story straight in another day or two," Lambert said.

Under Louisiana law, Lambert doesn't have a right to appeal his firing as coach. But he does have the ability to appeal his removal from his assistant principal's post.

Should he seek a review of the removal, Jefferson Parish school superintendent Isaac Joseph will randomly appoint a disciplinary hearing officer to oversee the proceeding from a preapproved list of such officers. Certified mediators, arbitrators, attorneys or retired judges can serve as disciplinary hearing officers, who have the power to issue subpoenas, according to the pertinent state law.

Lambert can choose whether the hearing is public or private, and he can appear before the presiding officer with his attorney and witnesses in his corner. The hearing officer ultimately will review Joseph's decision and decide to uphold or reverse it. The officer has 10 days from the end of the hearing to notify Lambert and the superintendent of the decision.

If either would like at that point, Lambert or the parish school board could appeal the hearing officer's decision to the 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna within 60 days. Additionally, any decisions handed out at that courthouse are subject to review from the state 5th Circuit Court in Gretna and the Louisiana Supreme Court in New Orleans.

Lambert led the Patriots to the Class 5A state championship game in 2015, where they lost to Zachary. He was named Coach of the Year on The New Orleans Advocate's All-Metro team after the season. It was the school's first trip to the title game since 1985, when they won.

The 2015 title run came three seasons after the Patriots were winless in Lambert's first year.

Ehret reached the 5A nonselect quarterfinals last season, finishing 10-3. During Lambert's time at Ehret, 38 former players have gone on to play in college.

The news about Lambert on Thursday dealt a second blow to the Ehret football family in the past few weeks. Patriots supporters last month mourned the death of Jefferson Parish School Board member Ray St. Pierre, who was the head coach of Ehret's 1985 championship team and has an athletics building on campus named in his honor.

"I do know that it seems like they waited until my board member, my mentor, Mr. St. Pierre died," Lambert said. 

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