America needs more leaders like Arthur Haggard.
The Bowman Academy athletic director spoke this week about the school's tug of war with the IHSAA and moving forward to establish the Eagles' athletic programs on a correct setting.
He confirmed that the NAACP met with IHSAA leaders in August, but Haggard did not want to get into a heated political debate.
"I don't want to portray this as a racial thing," Haggard said. "The bottom line is we were wrong. What happened here was wrong. I am not going to use the race card."
Haggard became Bowman's AD last December. The Gary charter school was under investigation by the IHSAA for multiple rules violations, so many and so off the charts that IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox said the following in January: "We've never had a member school commit this many violations in this short of a period of time. I've never seen anything like this."
Cox said this after announcing that Bowman's sports teams were suspended from postseason play for the remainder of the 2016-17 school year, along with this academic year.
Bowman was also placed on probation. Most of the law breaking was done in the boys basketball program.
The violations included: a student who was not enrolled at the school participating in a game, using an athlete in several games whose high school eligibility had expired and playing another athlete who provided false information in a transfer report to the IHSAA.
Another student on the boys basketball team was playing though he wasn't attending enough class hours to be eligible. Another player participated in games without filing a transfer report at all. Cox said another student has also been declared ineligible for playing without turning in a transfer report.
"They actually falsified a transfer report," Cox said.
Two players put down false addresses to where they lived. Or didn't.
This was the mess Haggard walked into. The Portage resident has a sophomore student-athlete at the school and another daughter in middle school. He easily could've just transferred his girls to Portage.
But he felt an obligation to the kids at Bowman, who were being punished by the actions of adults.
"It was like an avalanche," Haggard said. "Once the ball got rolling things began to unravel. We knew the entire process had to be redone. We had to make sure a system of checks and balances were put in place. It wasn't done before."
The new administration brought in speakers to preach sportsmanship, to clean up the program's image, Haggard said.
A system was put in place to make sure every student athlete had a physical, which was also not done in the past.
The leadership at Bowman wrote a student handbook, a peer handbook and a parent handbook, letting everyone know what the rules were to compete for the school.
"We never had those before," Haggard said.
Griffith athletic director Stacy Adams gave guidance. So, too, did former Gary city athletic director Earl Smith. The IHSAA also worked with the school to set things right.
And in September a reprieve was handed down by the IHSAA. Starting this winter season, all Bowman teams, except boys basketball, will be allowed to compete in sectional play.
"I can't take credit for it by myself," Haggard said. "I have a lot of great people around me. We had to step up to the challenge to open the doors for our student athletes. If we do things right everything will be restored upon us.
"We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have worked hard to change things here and we are so excited about the future. I'm grateful. We could've been out of the IHSAA."
Again, we need more men like Arthur Haggard. He doesn't play the blame game. He works hard, follows the rules and just look at what has transpired.