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Valor Christian assistant hockey coach sent recruiting letter to Texas coaches
Coach fired by school
A Valor Christian assistant ice hockey coach sent a letter to coaches in Texas attempting to recruit players from that state.
Daniel Pitman, a one-year assistant, sent a letter, obtained Tuesday by the Gazette, to coaches in Texas targeted at inviting top players there to consider attending the Highlands Ranch school as part of a so-called billeting program. Valor Christian fired Pitman on Feb. 27.
In billeting, a student leaves home and lives with a host family while attending school.
The Colorado High School Activities Association informed Valor Christian of the letter one week ago.
“Daniel Pitman is no longer employed at Valor Christian,” school athletic director and interim football coach Rod Sherman told The Gazette. “Valor Christian will not be offering a billeting program and never had any intention of doing that. When CHSAA brought the issue to us, we made a quick decision that he no longer be employed here.”
Valor Christian, a sprawling, 35-acre campus with a $23 million athletic complex, has risen to national prominence despite opening just six years ago. The Eagles have won the past four football state titles in three classes, in addition to quick successes in girls’ soccer, and track and field, among others.
The Eagles often play Colorado Springs schools, including in hockey, where they are in the same conference. The Eagles also were expected to be in the same football conference as area schools such as Doherty, Fountain-Fort Carson and Palmer, but were denied entry into that league a year ago and play them in nonleague games.
On Saturday, Sand Creek will play Valor Christian in the 4A boys' basketball state quarterfinals.
The school's success also has drawn the ire of some, accusing the independent private school of recruiting star players at competing schools and not playing within rules of the CHSAA.
According to the CHSAA, Valor Christian received nine sanctions in its first four years, including four serious violations.
Sherman was quick to defend the hockey program, saying it was blindsided and shocked at the release of the letter that was not approved by the school.
“We had no idea that letter was ever released, and that’s why we took the swift action we did,” Sherman said. “To be honest, we don’t allow students who are not at our high school to be on the hockey team. The whole billeting program would be in direct opposition to what we do.”
The Eagles’ hockey team went 14-4-1 this season but was eliminated by Standley Lake in the first round.
Pitman, a Virginia native who moved to Denver in 2009, is a law student at the University of Denver and six weeks ago founded Pitman Elite Sports to “aid highly skilled athletes in skill development, academic improvement, and college advising.” He was listed as an assistant coach on the Valor Christian team page on pointstreak.com at the time of this story.
“We believe this case to be all about a coach who did not understand his role,” CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico said. “This is not an issue with the institution. So far, I am convinced that Valor Christian is doing the right things to ensure this won’t take place again.”
The CHSAA Rules of Participation entry on recruiting states that “any recruiting based on athletic ability or interest is prohibited.”
“It is our intention to field a team that can compete with Shattuck St. Mary’s and Culver Military Academy,” Pitman writes in his two-page letter, titled “Re: Recruiting- Valor Christian High School Billeting Program, PES Marketing for High School Aged Players.”
While CHSAA doesn’t allow billeting, it does permit students who attend the state’s handful of boarding schools to participate in extracurricular activities while living away from home. (Valor is not a boarding school.)
“Our mission is a preparatory college prep school, and we also have discussions about sports and activities,” said Mike Payne, hockey coach at Fountain Valley, a Colorado Springs boarding school. “We want to know they have opportunities they want here, but as a coach, I can’t initiate a conversation that is open, based on athletic discussion.”
A voice message left at the phone number on the letter indicating it was Pitman's was not returned, nor were a message and email left with Valor hockey coach Mike Pasquarella.
Justin Shaw contributed to this story.