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Cornerstone Christian’s aggressive football recruiting draws scrutiny

(SBG San Antonio photo)

SAN ANTONIO -- Cornerstone Christian High School’s “aggressive” approach to expanding its athletic program has caught the attention of TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) district officials, who are expected to soon announce their findings after a probe is complete.

Area high school administrators have kept TAPPS officials apprised of Cornerstone’s tactics, which revolve around a substantial number of transfers into a burgeoning football program, but also include athletes in several other sports.

“We’ve had a number of students approached who have chosen to go to Cornerstone,” Northeast Independent School District athletic director Karen Funk said Wednesday. “There are a number of things that are happening within that realm that are going to play out. I do know TAPPS is looking at it. I have talked to them and kept them abreast as to what is happening in town.”

Funk said she is aware of six players who have either left or are in the process of leaving Reagan High School to play football at Cornerstone, along with two from MacArthur, two at Lee and one from Madison.

“Much of it is directed at Reagan,” she said, noting three athletes from other sports at that school have also been contacted.

Two football players who are transferring to Cornerstone have hired a local attorney to challenge the allegation that the players were recruited, as a Reagan coach indicated on the mandatory transfer form.

“Their lawyer sent us a letter saying the coach hadn’t filled out the form honestly and completely. …. Our legal counsel is in the process of responding to that letter. We absolutely stand behind our coach,” said Aubrey Chancellor, NEISD communications director of the Aug. 10 letter.

Cornerstone hired a new athletic director – Raymond Philyaw - and football coach – Abram Booty - in the past year and has upgraded its athletic facilities.

“This started in the fall and got more aggressive in July,” Funk said. “They have been very aggressive with parents and kids, giving them opportunities, making a number of overtures and promises that we could never make and we’d never be able to keep. I am getting the sense they are looking at a bigger landscape.”

The school released the following statement late Wednesday via Instagram:

Another local high school athletic executive, Northside Independent School District executive director Stan Laing, echoed Funk’s sentiments. Among the options local schools are considering are not scheduling Cornerstone or dropping them from the upcoming season’s schedules, cooperating with TAPPS as it gathers information on Cornerstone’s tactics, and not renting out facilities to the school.

Booty is the father of Cornerstone’s new high-profile quarterback General Booty. Abram Booty is one of four football playing brothers from a legendary football family. His father, Johnny Booty, is Cornerstone’s new director of sports ministry and is recognized as a quarterback guru who formerly coached at Evangel Christian Academy and Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La.

Abram Booty replaced former coach Bryan Marmion in April.

Cornerstone has also hired former San Antonio Stars player Sophia Young-Malcolm to coach girls basketball and Mike Carter as volleyball coach as it expands its athletic reach.

TAPPS athletic director Robert Huckabee said “their transfers are being processed just like any other school in our organization. They’ve built a new campus. They are expanding. It wouldn’t be uncommon to have transfers.”

Cornerstone has twice previously run afoul of TAPPS rules, including a high profile case in the 1990s featuring basketball player Eduardo Najera, whose recruitment from Mexico was deemed to have been outside the rules. Najera eventually played 12 seasons in the NBA, including five with Dallas. In 2006, Cornerstone was again kicked out of the organization after nine players were ruled ineligible for improper room and board.

The school’s football season opener is scheduled for Aug. 31.

“Now it’s a matter of whether people will keep them on the schedule,” Funk said. “There’s a good possibility (they might be dropped). Some private schools have not a lot of kids come out for football. If you have over 20-25 recruits, and they’re all legit players, that changes the picture. That’s not healthy for their students for somebody to beat the living crap out of them.”

If local public and private schools drop Cornerstone, that might not be devastating to their program, multiple sources said. Cornerstone could then attempt to play a national schedule.

“It’s been said to me, if they want to travel, that’s not a problem. They have the funds to do that,” Funk said.

Others disagree.

“This is a complete recipe for disaster,” one former Cornerstone coach said.

If any Cornerstone athletes are ruled ineligible by district officials, Cornerstone would have 10 days to appeal the decision, Huckabee said.

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