TUPPERS PLAINS, Ohio — A decision by the Ohio High School Athletic Association appeals board late Monday concerning the Eastern High School football program will likely see further legal action according to Superintendent Scot Gheen.
Gheen, Chief Financial Officer Lisa Ritchie and Eastern Local Board of Education President Adam Will spoke to The Daily Sentinel on Tuesday morning concerning the decision.
The OHSAA determined that Eastern must forfeit victories over South Gallia (Sept. 21) and Waterford (Sept. 14) due to a player being deemed ineligible due to an administrative error.
The matter according to Gheen is a “clerical error with regard to custody eligibility.” Gheen stated that the paperwork needed to enroll the child in school was properly completed prior to enrollment, but an accurately completed Affidavit of Bona Fide Residence as required by OHSAA Bylaws had not been. Rules through the Ohio Revised Code for school enrollment and OHSAA Bylaws for athletic eligibility require different documentation.
The child, who had previously resided with a biological parent in another state, now resides in the Eastern district with a relative who has custody through the courts.
Gheen stated that there is proper court documentation from the state where the father resides and from Meigs County Juvenile Court Judge Scott Powell.
The matter came to light during a phone call between the OHSAA and the Eastern administrative staff. The call from the district was initiated with regard to eligibility of a student if he/she moved from the district to another state with a custodial parent.
During the conversation, the administrator asked about the procedures and documentation needed for a student living in the district with someone other than a parent if the person has custody through the court.
It was during this call that it was determined the paperwork which needed to be completed had not been. The proper paperwork has now been submitted according to Gheen.
In an email between Gheen and Deborah Moore of the OHSAA, and obtained by The Daily Sentinel, regarding the matter, Moore stated, “I believe he (the student) may be able to be declared eligible in accordance with exception one of 4-6-3.”
Moore stated in the email that she had requested a letter from the athletic department requesting eligibility. “Then, once I can be convinced that he meets the standards, I can declare him eligible both prospectively and retrospectively in accordance with the provisions set forth in 4-1-1 — administrative error.”
As for a possible penalty associated with this error, Moore’s email stated, “there will be a fine associated with your failure to secure a ruling, but no forfeitures will be required provided the student is eventually ruled substantively eligible.”
Exception one of bylaw 4-6-3 reads:
The Commissioner’s office may declare a student who is subject of a custody order issued by a court of proper jurisdiction conferring custody upon a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or sibling who resides in Ohio, if, in the sole discretion of the Commissioner’s office, the Commissioner’s office determines that the purpose of this change in custody was not for athletic reasons, but purely for the best interest of the student in terms of the student’s mental, physical and educational well-bring.
In other words, if the move was for the well being of the child and not for athletic gain, the student could be declared eligible.
Gheen felt the school district should be fined, but that a forfeiture of two wins was not justified. “Those kids should not be punished,” Gheen added.
Will added that the district is committed to finding out what needs to be done and protecting the welfare of the student involved.
A similar matters were handled by the OHSAA Board of Directors during there September meeting.
Both matters involving St. Clairsville High School and Grove City Central Crossing High School resulted in a $100 fine and no forfeiture of games.
The minutes from the meeting regarding St. Clairsville High School read:
A student-athlete transferred from Marietta High School to St. Clairsville High School prior to the 2012-13 school year in accordance with Bylaw 4-7-2, Exception 1, Transfers. However, St. Clairsville failed to obtain a transfer ruling and supply an accurately completed Affidavit of Bona Fide Residence prior to the student’s participation. Upon receipt of the accurately completed Affidavit of Bona Fide Residence, the OHSAA will restore eligibility for the student retroactively and prospectively and rescind any forfeitures that occurred when the ineligible student participated in victorious contests but, in accordance with Bylaw 4-1-1, Administrative Error, St. Clairsville High School has been fined $100.
The minutes from the meeting regarding Crove City Central Crossing High School read:
A student- athlete transferred to Grove City Central Crossing High School prior to the 2012-13 school year in accordance with Bylaw 4-7-2, Exception 1, Transfers. However, Central Crossing failed to obtain a transfer ruling and supply an accurately completed Affidavit of Bona Fide Residence prior to the student’s participation. Upon receipt of the accurately completed Affidavit of Bona Fide Residence, the OHSAA will restore eligibility for the student retroactively and prospectively and rescind any forfeitures that occurred when the ineligible student participated in victorious contests but, in accordance with Bylaw 4-1-1, Administrative Error, Central Crossing High School has been fined $100.
Prior to the two enforced forfeitures, the Eastern football team held a record of 6-3 with one game remaining in the season, a senior night finale against Meigs County rival Southern (3-6).
The Eagles were ranked eighth in the Division VI, Region 23 computer ratings last week, with the top eight advancing to the playoffs.
While a win in Week 10 didn’t guarantee a playoff spot, it could have given Eastern its third-ever playoff appearance and first since 2001. Eastern also made the playoffs in 2000.
The computer rankings released by the OHSAA on Tuesday afternoon reflect the Eagles as having a 4-5 record. The rankings now list Eastern as 10th.
A special meeting of the Eastern Local Board of Education is set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the Eastern Elementary Library.