The Huntington Prep basketball academy has operated as part of St. Joseph’s Central Catholic High School for the past ten years. Huntington Prep is a worldwide brand in the basketball community and easily the best hoops program in the state.
According to Prep’s Head Coach Arkell Bruce, the team has always maintained a team GPA of over 3.0 and all of the 120 athletes that came through St. Joseph’s have gone on to be very successful young men. The arrangement between St. Joseph’s and Huntington Prep appeared to be working beautifully until just recently.
On Thursday, St. Joseph announced that it is ending the academic/athletic relationship with Prep effectively immediately. In an email to WSAZ Channel 3, Dr. Carol Templeton, St. Joseph’s Principal, said, “Huntington Prep has failed, unfortunately, to uphold their financial obligations with St. Joseph Central Catholic High School leaving a large amount of unpaid tuition. Attempts to collect the agreed-upon tuition by the school, and prior to COVID-19 era, have been futile.”
Head Coach Arkell Bruce has an entirely different version of events. According to Bruce, “We do owe them money. We paid over $65,000 this year and were always going to pay them, but us having to pay in full before COVID hit is just a lie. We were out of school in March doing online classes and still planned on paying them full tuition as we stated in an email to St. Josephs. I texted and emailed asking to meet but they (St. Joes) never got back to us. Then I received a letter a few weeks later saying that St. Josephs was going to sue us for the remainder of the money owed and that we’d be kicked out without as much as a phone call.”
Bruce continued: “We have paid in full since 2010 and have always been about 20 percent of the school’s budget. I believe a little leniency was warranted. The lack of respect show is really classless. Only around 30 percent of the school pays full tuition. We know we were being used but it was okay as long as we got a decent education. Again, all of our athletes that went through St. Joseph’s were successful.”
St. Joseph’s decision to end their relationship with Huntington Prep doesn’t add up. When asked what he really thought was behind St. Joseph’s decision, Bruce said, “It’s been said she didn’t want us there when she took over and now we’re gone. It’s been suggested there are racial undertones to this but I’m not certain what’s exactly driving this. I do know the administration is afraid to speak out in fear of losing their jobs.”
Dr. Templeton, the principal of St. Joseph’s elementary, middle school and high school, has no black faculty members at any of her schools and now the dismissal of Huntington Prep eliminates 90% of the black student population. Since Huntington Prep has been dismissed from St. Joseph’s, there have been many different kids who have gone on social media to express the discriminatory treatment they received while there. Templeton denies that, saying, “This is not a student issue, we remained steadfast in our commitment to our students. This, unfortunately, is an organizational issue.”
However, St. Joseph’s received grant money from COVID resources and has received over $1 million dollars from Huntington Prep in the past ten years. One late payment in ten years during a pandemic certainly does not seem like grounds for the entire successful arrangement to be disbanded. Templeton’s decision to end the relationship with Huntington Prep just doesn’t add up.
For now, Huntington Prep is searching for a new home. According to Arkell Bruce, “We have shed a lot of positive light on Huntington and West Virginia as a whole. We will continue to thrive and help in the community as needed.”