District appeals WIAA sanctions
Student-athletes from Craig, Parker, Edgerton and Beloit Turner high schools were pictured on a billboard ad last fall, and the advertiser gave the students coupons good for $25 on a purchase.
The ad and the compensation violated rules of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association.
The Janesville students—one from Parker and one from Craig—were suspended or lost their amateur status and eligibility to play. School officials would not describe how the students were disciplined. They said federal privacy law forbids disclosure of disciplinary actions.
The WIAA sanctions also call for the students' teams to forfeit games they played in, although that, too, is subject to the district's appeal.
The Janesville teams affected are Parker football, Craig boys cross-country and the Craig/Parker Bluebirds hockey team. Officials would not say which athletic contests might be forfeited.
The billboard featured a sophomore member of the Turner girls golf team, and she was declared ineligible, said Turner Athletic Director Kathy Leong.
Turner appealed the WIAA's ruling in late December so the girl could compete in a spring sport but has not heard back, Leong said.
The girl's record on the golf team was not affected, Leong said.
The ad was for letter jackets at Throndsen Lettering. Paul Throndsen said he didn't know he was violating rules when he asked students to appear in his ad.
Throndsen said he did not offer the $25 discount as an up-front incentive. Rather, he gave the students the coupons as an afterthought to thank them for their help.
One of the Janesville students didn't use the discount, said Steve Johnson, director of administrative services in Janesville.
The ads were on a Lamar Outdoor Advertising digital billboard in Janesville, Throndsen said.
Johnson said the district found out when a coach noticed the billboard and reported it.
The athletes and parents apparently didn't realize they were violating the rules, but those rules are given to each high school athlete, Johnson said.
Throndsen said he told Lamar to pull the ad as soon as he found out. He said he has cooperated with investigations by the WIAA and the school districts.
"We shouldn't penalize these kids for something they didn't know was wrong," Throndsen said. "... If I had known, there's no way I would put these kids in that jeopardy."
Throndsen said he knows now he did wrong, but it bothers him that "the people that get hurt here are the kids."
Throndsen said the ad also included a student from Rock County Christian School, but that school's teams do not compete in the WIAA.
Gazette reporters Ann Marie Ames, Gina Duwe, Stacy Vogel and Marcia Nelesen contributed to this report.