Eligibility an issue as FCD will now be invited to all Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools tournaments

from one of our readers by way of the Winston-Salem Journal and journalnow.com, with article by Mason Linker(W-SJ):

Teams from Forsyth Country Day have been occasional participants in high-school tournaments run by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, but until last weekend, no FCD team had competed in one since 2006.

Things changed at Saturday’s city/county swim championships, when FCD swimmers became the first to benefit from a recent agreement between officials from the WSFCS and FCD.

FCD now will be invited to all tournaments run by the school system, including the high-profile Mary Garber and Frank Spencer basketball tournaments. Superintendent Don Martin said that the agreement was reached after several meetings between the groups.

To play in the tournaments, FCD officials agreed to comply with the “eight-semester rule” of the N.C. High School Athletic Association. That rule says that no athlete will be eligible for more than eight straight semesters, starting with entry into ninth grade or participation on a high-school team, whichever comes first.

FCD competes in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association, which allows varsity participation on high-school teams by seventh- and eighth-graders. Some students who transfer to FCD also are reclassified and repeat a grade.

Martin said that the eight-semester rule was the biggest wrinkle to iron out.

“The argument was they didn’t have the same rules with eligibility of players, and that is true,” Martin said. “I met with Hank Battle (FCD’s headmaster) and Rusty (LaRue, FCD’s athletics director and boys basketball coach), and we needed to figure out a way that they essentially follow the NCHSAA eligibility rules, and they agreed.

“We wanted to define that, so we wouldn’t have fifth-year seniors playing against our kids. If you look at it, they have a good following, they are here in the county, and people are asking about it every year, wondering why they weren’t in the tournaments. I just thought we needed to correct this.”

LaRue said that FCD doesn’t have to accept all tournament invitations — the baseball and softball teams will not play this spring because of scheduling conflicts — but added that he hopes that will not happen in the future.

“We agreed that athletes that came here and repeated a year, they won’t play in the tournaments (when they are seniors),” LaRue said. “As a basketball coach, you hate to have a kid sitting out. But any kid that says they want to repeat a year, we will tell them they won’t be allowed to play in city/county tournaments. That’s to be up front with kids.

“I think we can bring a lot to the table, resourcewise, manpowerwise and maybe even facilitywise to help out. The bottom line is what’s best for the kids. Our kids grow up in the same neighborhoods as the public-school kids, and they want to play each other.”

Howard West, the AD and boys basketball coach at Reagan, said that the decision by WSFCS ADs to keep FCD out of the tournaments came down to basketball.

“Basketball is such a high-profile sport,” West said. “Without question, I think it boils down to one sport. It’s the most visible. (FCD is) not a football powerhouse or anything like that. The Frank Spencer is the most high-profile tournament there is, and they want to be a part of it.”

West said he was fine with Martin’s decision as long as the playing field is level.

“As long as we don’t have to play against the almost 20-year-olds, I am fine,” West said. “If they are one of the best teams around and have a marquee player that can help raise money (for the Frank Spencer), then it could be a good thing.”

Martin said that other Forsyth County schools outside the WSFCS were not invited to the tournaments, in part, because they haven’t asked.

“If others requested, we would have a conversation and make sure this eligibility thing is clear,” Martin said. “We would be happy to have that conversation with every other school in the county. I don’t think some of the other schools have any real desire to play in them, though.”