Austin Stock: A High School Athlete in Trouble or Victim of a Newspaper Headline Hunt?

Categories: Sports
austin stock.jpg
Austin Stock, in his days before the transfer and the resulting headlines.
A cub reporter at the Sun-Sentinel landed a major headline back in mid-November. Writer Dieter Kurtenbach claimed he had uncovered documents and found sources that showed a star high school quarterback may have transferred schools in violation of state policies.

His big story landed on the Sentinel's homepage November 17 and as a front-page story in the print edition. It began with an ominous paragraph: "A nationally recognized high school football team's championship may be jeopardized by questions about the transfer of their star quarterback."

The story claimed Austin Stock transferred from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Coral Springs to powerhouse Miami Central without actually moving to Central's territory. That could, under certain circumstances, violate rules that keep athletes from transferring just to get on better teams. It could jeopardize Stock's chances at a college scholarship and at Central's chances of repeating as state champs.

But things haven't gone well for Kurtenbach since his big story. Investigations into the  allegations have not reached the same conclusion, and other media outlets haven't picked up the same damning tone as the Sentinel. Still, Kurtenbach's not backing down.

"There's a shitload of smoke around this program," Kurtenbach, 23, said about Miami Central. "We do have a lot of things that are incredibly damning, to put it one way. It's a situation that's a lot more sinister than just some botched paperwork."

That's not how it has appeared to others. The Miami Herald's coverage has been decidedly more cautious. Kurtenbach says it's because his competitor is scared of offending Miami Central, a school it must cover regularly. (Herald Executive Sports Editor Jorge Rojas declined to comment specifically but said: "I'm happy and satisfied with the work our reporters have done on this story.")

So at first, the story seemed to be about a cub reporter burning shoe leather on a series of articles that may or may not be legitimate. Then, the apparently legitimate reason for Stock's transfer became clear.

Before the football season began, Stock's family reportedly told school officials that they had lost their home. His mother had moved them into a hotel in Hollywood, and the rules governing high school sports allow Stock to enroll in any school.

The Sentinel even reported that Stock's mother moved into the hotel after she was forced to sell their home for a $110,000 loss. That's right: The Sentinel went after a homeless kid who had switched schools because his family was forced to live in a hotel.

Stock hasn't commented since the story broke. But things seemed to be looking up for him and his homeless family last week. The Miami-Dade School District investigated Stock's transfer and decided there was nothing wrong. Then the Florida High School Athletic Association's board met in part to decide whether to launch an investigation into Stock's transfer. The board had been given paperwork from the Miami-Dade School District on the issue and has the power to force Miami Central to forfeit the season if it found wrongdoing. Instead, the board took no action. No investigation, not even a statement.

In response, the Herald published a short item explaining the board's lack of action -- the apparent conclusion to this sordid tale. There appears to be nothing, meanwhile, on the Sentinel's website about the board's lack of action.

Kurtenbach had an easy explanation for that. He said it wasn't worth reporting the board's inaction because it will have to do something soon. He was confident in that because he had sent the association a packet of documents that should prove his reporting. Kurtenbach said he couldn't reveal what was in the packet.

Most news organizations don't allow reporters to be actively involved in an investigation. Kurtenbach's editor, Tim Stephens, said he would look into whether Kurtenbach had helped investigators, but he said the paper's reporting has been solid. "Certainly we stand behind our reporting up until this point," said Stephens, who holds the title of sports topic manager for the Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel.

After the Pulp spoke with Stephens, Kurtenbach called back to say what he had said previously was off the record. It was not, and when told this, he said: "I don't need someone coming around and fucking this up for me. I don't need this."

Since the story broke, Kurtenbach says he has received 32 death threats. He doesn't want his editor to know because he thinks they may take him off the story. "I'm the only one on the ground," he said. "I'm the only one staking out the hotel."

And maybe that last bit should have given someone an idea that Kurtenbach may be in too deep. There he was, a 23-year-old cub reporter, staking out the hotel room of a homeless football player. All in the name of one more headline.


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Bpjunkmail

A lot in this article does not pass the sniff test. 

Diane Stock, the boy's mother, denied they was homeless.

The family NEVER claimed to be homeless and the school principal and the AD never filed any such paperwork of his behalf.

The School confirmed that Stock enrolled using an address within Miami Central's boundaries. They also stated that they had a school social worker confirm that address. This could not have been the Hollywood hotel where Stock was actually living since that was nbot even in the Miami-Dade district.

A school employee (a teacher) was picking Stock up at a Hollywood hotel every morning and transporting him to school -- in itself a violation of FHSAA rules.  This hotel is not even within the Miami-Dade county school District let alone the Miami Central boundaries.

Stock himself called his former coach at Stoneman-Douglas and told him he was leaving to gain better exposure from colleges then he thought he could get at S-D.

Even if Stock was homeless, why did that require he attend a school in another county?

Why did not Stock simply attend the school serving the address of the Hollywood hotel where he was living instead of one in another county where he needed private transportation by a school employee?

How can the school claim they did not know where Stock's actual address since one of the schools teachers was picking Stock up every day at the Hollywood hotel and transporting him across county lines to the school?

Who gave the teacher permission to pick up a student and transport him to campus, especially from outside of the district.

Who was paying the rent on that Hollywood hotel room. The manager of the hotel said it was being charged to a credit card but declined to say who's card.

Too many unanswered questions...

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Dan
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I just found out that Eric Barton is the Editor/Chief of Broward/Palm Beach New Times.  You didn't get that job pumping out farce like this.  I guess your title makes you feel entitled to refer to Kurtenbach as a "cub."  

Dan
Dan

​"A cub reporter at the Sun-Sentinel landed a major headline back in mid-November. Writer Dieter Kurtenbach claimed he had uncovered documents and found sources that showed a star high school quarterback may have transferred schools in violation of state policies."

Why is Kurtenbach referred to as a "cub" reporter?  Why not just "reporter?"  It sounds like a narrative is being drawn.

"That's not how it has appeared to others. The Miami Herald's coverage has been decidedly more cautious. Kurtenbach says it's because his competitor is scared of offending Miami Central, a school it must cover regularly. (Herald Executive Sports Editor Jorge Rojas declined to comment specifically but said: "I'm happy and satisfied with the work our reporters have done on this story.")"

A student of practical logic could tell you that the above paragraph is meaningless.  Just because The Miami Herald has not published/reported anything surreptitious (as the Broward/Palm Beach New Times has) does not mean that there is not anything surreptitious going on in this case.  Your rhetoric is lazy bro.

"Before the football season began, Stock's family reportedly told school officials that they had lost their home. His mother had moved them into a hotel in Hollywood, and the rules governing high school sports allow Stock to enroll in any school." Stock's family is portrayed as homeless.  This is not the case.  They have a home in Texas.  Stock's mother moved into a hotel in Hollywood, FL for a reason.  Why hasn't Austin Stock claimed residency where his father is residing?  

"The Sentinel even reported that Stock's mother moved into the hotel after she was forced to sell their home for a $110,000 loss. That's right: The Sentinel went after a homeless kid who had switched schools because his family was forced to live in a hotel."Again, Austin Stock is not homeless.  His mother has chosen to live in the hotel in Hollywood.  Furthermore, Austin could live with his father.  Again, your rhetoric is lazy.  

"Stock hasn't commented since the story broke. But things seemed to be looking up for him and his homeless family last week. The Miami-Dade School District investigated Stock's transfer and decided there was nothing wrong. Then the Florida High School Athletic Association's board met in part to decide whether to launch an investigation into Stock's transfer. The board had been given paperwork from the Miami-Dade School District on the issue and has the power to force Miami Central to forfeit the season if it found wrongdoing. Instead, the board took no action. No investigation, not even a statement."So, a school board with a record of corruption has "investigated" and subsequently found no wrongdoing.  Wow.  Now I am convinced... Not.  The board took no action?  The board never investigated?  The board never issued a statement?  Why (not)?  These types of actions (or in this case inaction) usually point towards something going on (to use a cliche') behind the curtains.  A good reporter would usually see/hear this and dig more.  It looks like you're laying down.  Why?

"In response, the Herald published a short item explaining the board's lack of action -- the apparent conclusion to this sordid tale. There appears to be nothing, meanwhile, on theSentinel's website about the board's lack of action."Why did you even hyper-link to that "article?"  Has the board taken any further action since returning from Thanksgiving break?  Can you find the time to ask when the board will explain their action/inaction? 

"Most news organizations don't allow reporters to be actively involved in an investigation. Kurtenbach's editor, Tim Stephens, said he would look into whether Kurtenbach had helped investigators, but he said the paper's reporting has been solid. 'Certainly we stand behind our reporting up until this point,' said Stephens, who holds the title of sports topic manager for the Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel."I'm sure your editor would stand up for you too.  I'm also sure that Mr. Stephens has more knowledge about this story than you do (which isn't saying much).

"After the Pulp spoke with Stephens, Kurtenbach called back to say what he had said previously was off the record. It was not, and when told this, he said: 'I don't need someone coming around and fucking this up for me. I don't need this'."So, it comes down to this.  Kurtenbach claims that he told you that his comments (to you) were "off the record."  Your counter-claim is that you did not agree to those terms (which is/was your right as a journalist).  Do you have any proof (recording/witness) that can verify that you did not agree to Kurtenbach's "off the record" terms?  Maybe this is why you refer to Kurtenbach as a "cub" reporter.  Maybe he is a cub because he was foolish enough to believe that telling you that the conversation was "off the record" meant that you would honor that agreement.  Maybe he is a cub because he decided to talk to you anyway (i.e. even after you said that you would not honor the "off the record" request).  However, unless you can provide evidence more than your word that you did not agree to Kurtenbach's "off the record" request I must pay charity to Mr. Kurtenbach.  In other words, unless you have proof that you would not honor Kurtenbach's "off the record" request I think/feel that you ought to be chastised/punished by the Society of Professional Journalists or another body that oversees that journalists adhere to the journalistic code of ethics.  I'm not saying that you are guilty of an ethical violation; but, I will question your innocence until there is proof otherwise."Since the story broke, Kurtenbach says he has received 32 death threats. He doesn't want his editor to know because he thinks they may take him off the story. 'I'm the only one on the ground,' he said. 'I'm the only one staking out the hotel'.  And maybe that last bit should have given someone an idea that Kurtenbach may be in too deep. There he was, a 23-year-old cub reporter, staking out the hotel room of a homeless football player. All in the name of one more headline."

Your making assumptions of Kurtenbach's character and motivations.  This is what psychologists call "projection."  I mean, you're bending (if not breaking) journalistic ethics to report on a reporter who is reporting a non-story.  If what you're saying is true doesn't that make you more pathetic than Kurtenbach?

Let us review the facts.  Austin Stock is not homeless.  His family has moved to Texas.  Instead of moving to Texas, his mother opts to split up her family and move her and her star-football-player son into a hotel room in Hollywood, FL.  I don't know about you, but this sounds really fishy to me.  Wouldn't a parent want their child living in a more stable home/apartment than a hotel room?  I mean, why else would Mrs. Stock leave her other children with family in Texas?  Why isn't Austin residing with his father (for stability)?  Could it be because Mr. Stock does not live within the bounds for Austin to attend Miami Central?  I think/feel that this "cub" reporter is on to something.  I believe that Mrs. Stock and Austin are living in a hotel room to take advantage of a purposefully ambiguous rule so that her family can cash in on her son's talent(s).  In this economy it is difficult to judge her for that.  However, I find it sad that she has chosen to be away from her other children, no matter what the truth behind the reason may be.

Usarmye7ret
Usarmye7ret

Amazing... 100K loss on a home, living in a motel, and this "cub" POS is saying it is a set up. I guess some people will do anything to have their 15 minutes of fame. What this dumba$$ reporter does not understand is that his refusal to accept the facts, his glory seeking, will destroy his career, not make it. I do not live in Fl., I have only read accounts that for all purposes shows this idiot does not have a clue what real reporting is all about.

TheBichonWhisperer
TheBichonWhisperer

Instead of harassing homeless children, why doesn't the SS do an investigative report on the corruption in the Broward Schools? That would keep them busy for months. I wouldn't be surprised if the administration of his old high school, MSD was found to be the ones feeding the "facts" to the SS.  Many Floridians, myself included, sold our homes for much less than they were worth out of necessity - job loss, divorce, pay cuts, and so on and so forth.  I can rattle off a list of friends, family, and neighbors that suffered the same fate as this family.  To add insult to injury as this shady reporter has done is the low.  Thanks for publishing a follow-up with the truth, something the SS should have issued, along with an apology.

James Milner
James Milner

While I agree most of this report is fair, the last few paragraphs are as exploitative as you say the Sun Sentinel's story on Stock is. You're deliberately trying to clown the reporter. What this story says is Kurtenbach wanted this off the record, but since he didn't mention it initially or you didn't acknowledge his request, it doesn't count. Is that fair? Also, there's no mention of the Sun Sentinel's work uncovering Boyd Anderson's infractions this season, which would've been indicative of the newspaper's recent credibility when it comes to this kind of story.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

Kurtenbach asked if we could speak off the record. I told him no. At New Times, we'll go off the record with sources who might have information that they can only give under those circumstances. But there's no reason to go off the record for this story. He called me later to say that his earlier statements were off the record, but any reporter will tell you that you can't -- and shouldn't -- request that afterward.

As for the Boyd Anderson story, I agree. The Sentinel has reported that its investigation determined students used bogus addresses to enroll at the school. If true, that's a clear violation of the rules. The big difference here is that Austin Stock appears to have violated no rules, and that was clear from day one of this story -- despite the front-page treatment in the Sentinel.

Frank Albergaria
Frank Albergaria

you people are living in a fantasy world, high school sports in the south is extremely corrupt and it gets much worse in college, the sec is so strong because they buy the best talent money can buy.

Seth Platt
Seth Platt

I have been openly critical about the reporting of this story and I commend you Eric for doing the same.60 Minutes ran a story on homeless children living in Florida this past week which broke many people's hearts, but not this dip shit reporter's I guess.There are 49,000 school-aged children who were identified by the public school districts as being homeless during the 2009-2010 school year as reported in the Council on Homelessness2011 Report.Many of the children considered homeless were living in Motels as were many in the 60 Minutes piece.This kid has a chance to get out of his situation and should be helped not ripped apart by some a-hole in the press.With all the BS going on in sports in South Florida High School Athletics is one of the few bright spots.Reporters should find better things to do then stalking school children and ruining their futures.

Jalexandre
Jalexandre

This guy was rude and disrepectful to Ms. Diane (austin's mother)! He would approach her in a rude manner and demanded answers! If it wasn't for ME and the fellow rocket alumni that approaced him and told him to back down, he would still continue to harrass this poor lady! (in a sympathetic way). Mr. Lockette (head coach) handled this situation well and as well as austin! Kurtenbach, you better chill out, if YOU KNOW whats good for you!!!!!! ROCKET PRIDE!!!!!!!!!!!

hi again.
hi again.

RED ROCKET, RED ROCKET!!!!!!

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

How are the windows in your glass house? High school sports are fraught with violations, in South Florida, and anyone who ignores this as a cub reporter trying to make his reputation on a bogus fishing expedition is extremely naive.

Usarmye7ret
Usarmye7ret

Naive? Really? I think the only one that is naive are those that believe that a family that lost their job, took 100K loss on a home, and moved to a motel is abusing the system, I am amazed at the hate. Kenny, let me ask you a question please. Where you are from or what is your association with the issue? I said in my first post, I am not from your area and I only ran into the article looking on Yahoo sports and it surprised me at the ton of crap being thrown at this kid. So tell me Kenny, are you from the school this kid went to last year? Do you have a tie with that school (at all?). Is this sour grapes? I would think that you have a axe to grind, and your doing a good job of it.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

Kenny, you're right that high school sports are fraught with questionable transfers. But when it became clear this kid followed the rules, the story was dead. Why then report all those details about his family's homeless status? Why stake out his hotel room?

KennyPowersII
KennyPowersII

Do you really believe this family passes the sniff test?I don't, but that is based solely on intuition. Seems more like manipulating the rules ( which may be too lenient) to enhance the individuals marketability. I do think the "homeless" label is way over the top. By this definition, any person who rents or stays at a hotel is homeless. I prefer to think, "homeless" is a person living on the street or at a shelter. In this case the subterfuge may only be sympathy inducing. Claiming to be homeless and being homeless are not always the same.

Usarmye7ret
Usarmye7ret

KennyThe only sniff test tht this reporter passes is the BS one. Really, read the information, look at the information that was in this own reporters article. The parents took 100K loss on a home, and living in a motel (not modest hotel is the words I believe I read). You can prefer to think as a homeless person as one who lives on the street, but I ask why don't you live in a cheap hotel and not have a job, then see how you want to classify yourself. This whole thing stinks of a former school/boosters/parents/fans/adminstration, and a irresponsible and immature "reporter" who gets off by following a kid living in a cheap hotel. I think anyone with any sense can see this is all about one thing, the reporter getting attention. The only problem is (in my opinion), he is bringing attention on his failings as a reporter, not the plight of a kid and his mother who are homeless. I truly hope this ruins this reporters career, he deserves it! 

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

I disagree, Kenny. The family lost their house and is now living in a less-than-modest hotel in Hollywood. If the idea is that some booster out there is supporting the family, it seems unlikely that they'd store them in a low-rent hotel.

At the least, there's no evidence that they're receiving money. Criminals deserve the right to be considered innocent unless proven otherwise, and that's no doubt applicable when we're talking about a high school athlete.

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