Just days after losing one of its best football players to a Hillsborough County private school, Pasco High is calling foul.
On Thursday, Pasco County athletic director Phil Bell filed a formal complaint with the Florida High School Athletic Association on behalf of Pasco football coach Tom McHugh, claiming Tampa Catholic recruited sophomore Nate Craig and two other Pasco High players.
FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers confirmed the complaint and ongoing investigation into the claims.
In the complaint filed to the FHSAA, Pasco alleges Tampa Catholic contacted Craig more than a year ago about transferring to the school. The complaint also states that on Tuesday and Wednesday, Tampa Catholic contacted two other Pirates players by phone, offering them transportation and tuition to enroll at TC.
“Me with my Viking heritage, if you’re going to bring a fight to me, then I’m going to fight back,” McHugh said. “Shame on me for being fooled once, shame on you for trying to fool me a second and third time. They came back for seconds and thirds and … I’ve got to do something about it. This can’t keep happening.”
The complaint was eventually filed not because of losing Craig, but because TC actively went after two other Pasco players and made them offers. McHugh says he was given the number from which the other Pasco players were contacted, and when he called, a TC secretary answered the phone.
“It’s absolutely getting out of hand,” McHugh said. “I’m over the Craig thing because it’s a scoop and score and they got him and it is what it is. They have a different set of rules and we’re on an uneven playing field, and that’s what needs to stop.”
Craig, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver with 17 Division-I offers including Ohio State, Florida State and Auburn, transferred to Tampa Catholic on Tuesday after catching 37 passes for 502 yards and 16 total touchdowns in two seasons on varsity.
Rumors arose that Craig would transfer to a Hillsborough school after playing on a 7-on-7 team consisting of Hillsborough County football stars last summer. McHugh said Craig’s mother, Nicki, told him twice on the phone he would never leave Pasco, where his brother, former Purdue and current San Diego Charger Josh Johnson, and his uncle, Massachusetts defensive back, Trey Dudley-Giles, also starred.
“The kid has 17 offers, so he didn’t go there for college looks. Pasco is an A-ranked school, so he didn’t go there for education. We’ve got a 37-3 record over the last three years, so our team is good,” McHugh said. “Why else would he need to go there?”
TC’s football program has been investigated by the FHSAA in the past, specifically in 2012 when the governing body reprimanded TC after an assistant coach agreed to give financial aid to a player. While no money was ever exchanged, it was still a violation of recruiting rules.
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.