LISTEN: Utah high school sports group investigating ‘scholarships’ for international students

Mar 13, 2024, 3:05 PM | Updated: Mar 14, 2024, 12:32 pm

Image of an empty locker room. The Utah High School Activities Association is investigating how int...

The Utah High School Activities Association is investigating how international student-athletes are recruited to several schools in Utah.(Canva)


Get a push from us? Here’s πŸ‘‡ our interview with Amy Donaldson about Utah high schools and athletic scholarships.


DRAPER, Utah β€” The 16-year-old opened a letter at his home in London and tried to comprehend how his life was about to change.

It was from a club basketball coach, Roger Payne, who was also the founder and director of the club Ballers Heaven β€” a youth club and semi-pro basketball organization in the United Kingdom. The letter told him that a private high school in America had offered him a “full-ride” scholarship to play basketball and attend school β€” Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper.

Leaving home would be hard. But Jared β€” whose family asked that his real name not be used β€” decided it was worth any risk.

“This was a dream of mine,” said Jared. The 6-foot-10 forward said everyone he knows dreams of coming to America to attend school and play sports.

It’s “just a better level, just higher competition.”

But what the teen and his family didn’t realize when they accepted what they thought was a Utah high school basketball scholarship, is that the rules governing high school sports don’t allow athletic scholarships. And they say promises of accommodations, food, schooling, school uniforms and insurance only materialized because of the doggedness and generosity of the host families they happened to be placed with.

Jared’s host family and another host family said they had to badger the school to get the tuition waived and pay for school lunches for their students. One family paid for medical costs and health insurance because the school did not. Both host families said they ended up buying the students uniforms because the school either did not β€” or they provided used clothes in poor condition.

Where the law stands on transgender athletes competing in Utah

On top of everything else, just the fact that Jared was recruited to play prep sports at Juan Diego could have cost him his high school eligibility β€” the very reason he chose to travel to a foreign country to attend school on his own.

That’s because recruiting athletes is expressly prohibited for schools that are part of the Utah High School Activities Association. The school mentioned in that letter β€” Juan Diego β€” is a member of the association.

Investigation underway into Utah athletic scholarsips

The association confirmed Tuesday that it is investigating how international student-athletes are recruited to several schools in Utah.

The association’s rules state coaches are not allowed to entice any athlete through promises of playing time, tuition discounts or scholarships, help with academics, or any other promise or reward.

Just offering any kind of enticement is a violation that could result in punishment for the school, the program, or the coach β€” even if it’s offered by an intermediary who doesn’t work for the school. Like a club coach, for example.

And for athletes, simply accepting the offer could cost them their athletic eligibility to play at a Utah association school.

But in Jared’s case, no one was punished.

And that’s because the association didn’t know about the letter β€” or any of the other issues β€” until a hearing a few months ago.

Read Amy Donaldson’s complete story at KSL.com.

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LISTEN: Utah high school sports group investigating ‘scholarships’ for international students