NOTE: This story was published Feb. 14 in the Sailors’ Log, the school newspaper of Mona Shores High School. It was written by Jake Bordeau, the Editor-in-Chief, and is being posted on the Local Sports Journal website with his permission.

By Jake Bordeaux

Matt Koziak, the second-year head coach of the Mona Shores Sailor football program, will not be present for the first two games of the 2013 season.

“(Koziak) has been suspended for undue influence,” athletic director Ryan Portenga said. “Basically, he did not go through the proper enrollment channels and is in violation of MHSAA regulation.”

The situation began when the family of a Grand Haven student contacted Koziak about possibly transferring to Shores.

“I thought that I was not in violation of any rules because the family contacted me,” Koziak said. “I called and notified the student’s coach to let him know the student was considering transfer, and I then met with the family to further discus the transfer. My meeting with them was the violation.”

The incident occurred in mid-November of 2012, and Mona Shores self-reported the incident to the MHSAA.Portenga said Mona Shores has never had an undue influence incident with any of its coaching staff prior to this event.

Also, Portenga added that because the case was self-reported and handled by Mona Shores administration and it was a first time offense, he said he expected nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

However, because the MHSAA has to rule based on the precedence of previous cases, they were forced to penalize Koziak the same as coaches in the past.

The MHSAA sent a letter to Mona Shores stating that Koziak had a choice to make. He could either give up coaching the first two games of the 2013 season, or he could coach, but if the team qualified for the playoffs, they would not be able to participate.

“I don’t agree with the suspension at all; however, it is a rule, so I am going to accept the penalty,” Koziak said. “If I don’t respect the rules and penalties, how can I expect the rest of the coaching staff and my players to?”

Koziak is not the only party involved in the incident, though, as the student and his family are also in violation of MHSAA rules.

In the MHSAA handbook, under the penalties for undue influence, the rule states, “This rule renders a student who is recruited by a person directly or indirectly associated with a school or athletic program ineligible for up to one year.”

Despite this rule, Portenga said the MHSAA has not moved to impose this punishment on the student involved, and has instead left any action regarding the discipline of the student completely in the hands of Grand Haven’s administrative staff.Portenga said that while he believes Grand Haven has handled the whole situation perfectly, they have not yet moved to discipline the student.

The penalty may sound crippling for the Sailors, but, in reality, Koziak will still be just as much a leader of the team leading up to and after these two games.

“It won’t negatively affect the program at all,” Portenga said. “He can’t be on school grounds three hours before or after games, but he will be leading practice in the weeks preceding the games. He really only will be absent on those two Friday nights.”

During the first two games of the season, defensive coordinator Todd Conrad will step in as acting head coach, and he along with the other members of the coaching staff will fill the gap left by Koziak’s absence.

In the wake of this event, Mona Shores has looked into Coaches Achievement Program training, which is a program that allows coaches to be taught, in depth, the rules and regulations of the MHSAA in the hope that it will eliminate any future incidents.