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Catholic High helmet perched atop at fence rail before the game between Catholic High and East Ascension at Olympia Stadium, Baton Rouge LA on October 20, 2017.

Catholic High confirmed it will forfeit two state football championships and two runner-up finishes as the result of LHSAA sanctions.

The Bears were fined and ordered to forfeit Division I select titles won in 2017 and 2020 as well as runner-up trophies for 2018 and 2019. The school chose not to appeal the sanctions, which followed what was reportedly a months-long investigation that concluded in the spring.

Catholic High did not specify the nature of the violations.

Two fines associated with the sanctions have been paid, Catholic athletic director Ben DiPalma said, who issued a statement on the forfeitures.

Catholic defeated John Curtis 20-14 for the 2017 Division I championship. The Bears defeated C.E. Byrd 35-12 for the 2020 Division I title.

They were runners-up to John Curtis in 2018 and to Rummel in 2019.

“In March of 2021, the LHSAA informed Catholic High School that it was under investigation regarding alleged violations within the school’s football program that potentially occurred in 2017," DiPalma said. "Catholic High School administrators worked diligently with the LHSAA to aid them in their investigation in whatever way possible.

“The investigation concluded in May of 2021. It was determined that Catholic High School’s 2017 and 2020 state titles, and the 2018 and 2019 state runner-up titles would be revoked.

"CHS respects the confidentiality policy between the LHSAA and member schools and will not comment further. As this matter is now closed, CHS looks forward to moving on to the 2021 football season and postseason under new head coach, David Simoneaux.”

The LHSAA did not release the sanctions. The LHSAA has not released sanctions for any of its member schools since the fall of 2018.

A source close to the situation confirmed that the Bears will not receive a football playoff ban; that all players currently in the Catholic football program are eligible for the 2021 season; and that no other sports were involved.

Former head football coach Gabe Fertitta resigned at Catholic in February to join the staff at the University of Louisville. The Bears hired Catholic-Pointe Coupee’s Simoneaux, a former Parkview Baptist player, in March.

The Catholic High matter is different than two other high-profile cases involving Southern Lab and McKinley in recent years. LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonine and Catholic's DiPalma disputed the notion that the sanctions were done in a secretive manner.

"It was up to Catholic to release the information and they did," Bonine said. "We changed our policy on releasing rulings and sanctions in late 2018 to avoid issues like we had with some past ruling.

"Bottom line was this ... it was not in the best interest of the schools, coaches, student athletes or the LHSAA to release that information to the media. Since then, we have issued 421 penalty rulings, 57 appeals and 47 hardship hearings. We have only had one complaint from a school during that time."

In 2017, the LHSAA held a news conference to announce that Southern Lab had to forfeit Division IV football titles in 2015 and 2016 and a runner-up finish in 2014.

Southern Lab was fined $5,000 and head coach Marcus Randall was suspended for one year and terminated by the school. Southern Lab received a two-year playoff ban that was later reduced to one year.

In the spring/summer of 2018, McKinley was fined a record total of $41,968 for violations in multiple sports. Coaches in all sports were suspended for one year, and all McKinley sports teams were banned from the playoffs for one year.

McKinley’s sanctions were released by the LHSAA, and the school appealed in an open session, resulting in some reduction in penalties. The decision to not release sanctions/rulings came later that year. As a private organization, the LHSAA is not required to make a public release of rulings or business dealings.

Bonine also noted other recent high-profile cases involving John Curtis, C.E. Byrd and Hahnville that played out in a public manner.

"Releasing those rulings caused nothing but problems for everyone involved," Bonine noted. "Everybody wants to see an ox brought to the altar and gored ... until it is their ox."


Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com