High School Sports

Athletes' fathers denounce inquiry

Parents of two Independence High School football stars went before the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday to denounce an ongoing investigation of possible athletic eligibility violations at the school.

The fathers of star quarterback Anthony Carrothers and record-breaking running back Rod Chisolm told the board their families have been harassed by investigators and their reputations have been wrongly tarnished.

Anthony Carrothers, whose son and namesake played quarterback for the Patriots last season, told the school board he'd been visited by CMS lawyers and law enforcement officers four times in 10 days.

A lawyer interviewed him 11/2 hours earlier Tuesday on his job at the Charlotte Fire Department, he said. He accused CMS investigators of questioning his neighbors and running license tag checks on cars in his driveway.

“It's totally unfair,” he said. “I think it is harassment.”

Superintendent Peter Gorman declined to comment on the investigation or give any estimate of when it might be complete.

“We want to do it right,” he said after the board meeting. “Right takes a little while.”

The investigation is part of a broader CMS inquiry into allegations that families across the county have been lying about their addresses to get their children into elite sports programs.

At least 17 players have been dismissed from Charlotte-Mecklenburg teams in recent months. Four coaches have resigned or been removed; and at least two high schools have forfeited football seasons.

Independence, a perennial Mecklenburg football power, came under scrutiny in early February after the Observer learned that during last season's state playoffs a starting cornerback used a phony address.

That led CMS to dismiss him and six more Patriots from the team for eligibility issues.

James Wallace told the school board his family has done nothing wrong, and added that son, running back Rod Chisolm, has accepted a scholarship to play at Appalachian State. If the CMS probe hurts his son's athletic future in any way, he said, he will take legal action against CMS.

“It has been a witch hunt,” Wallace told board members. “We've crossed the line into defamation of character.”

Like Carrothers, he said he was interviewed by CMS investigators. Both men said that, judging from the questions, the investigators' focus has moved from residency violations to finding out whether coach Tom Knotts and his staff committed recruiting violations.

Both fathers denied that their sons had been recruited. Both said they came to Independence of their own volition, after having visited other high school programs.

Knotts has said he does not recruit players. He couldn't be reached Tuesday night. His lawyer, Joe Ledford, said that the investigation appears to be nearing a conclusion, and that it wasn't in Knotts' best interest to comment.