from the Fayetteville Observer at www.fayobserver.com:
Terry Sanford ineligible in football playoffs; team, fans devastated
Terry Sanford High School has been removed from the 2009 N.C. High School Athletic Association football playoffs for using an ineligible player.
Que Tucker, deputy executive director of the association, said she was contacted by Terry Sanford officials Monday and told the school had used an ineligible player. Tucker declined to reveal the nature of the ineligibility.
The high school will forfeit all nine of their wins because of the violation.
Tuesday, Cumberland County Superintendent Frank Till said a grade fraud investigation at Terry Sanford resulted in one football player losing his eligibility. The school’s principal, Diane Antolak, was suspended with pay Wednesday while school officials investigated allegations of grade changing, Till said. Antolak remains suspended today, Till said.
“I can’t go into much detail without betraying the confidence of a child,” Till said.
Antolak would not comment about the investigation when reached at her home today. The school board will ultimately decide any disciplinary action against Antolak.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association’s rules require a school to forfeit any game for which an ineligible player dresses, and to pay a fine of $500 for using the player. Terry Sanford’s fine will be reduced by half for reporting itself.
Tucker said the violation should have been detected with “reasonable scrutiny” and added she felt for the school and the team for what they are going through.
Terry Sanford’s spot in the playoff bracket will not be taken by another team, nor will the association reseed the bracket even though the playoffs won’t start until Friday.
Tucker said Pine Forest, which was scheduled to be Terry Sanford’s first-round opponent Friday in the 4-A East, will get a forfeit win and will automatically advance to the second round of the playoffs.
“Everybody is going to be disappointed,” said Greg West, chairman of the Cumberland County school board. “It’s kind of like golf. You have to have integrity when no one is watching. The right thing to do is to report it.”
In 2007, a Fayetteville Douglas Byrd player was deemed ineligible over a question about a custody arrangement. The team forfeited its season.
Fayettevile Douglas Byrd, Gray’s Creek, Raleigh Broughton, South View, Pine Forest, Seventy-First and Jack Britt all would have had an extra win and their state tournament seedings improved had the ineligible player been caught before Saturday. This would’ve affected seeding in the 4-AA, 4-A and 3-AA brackets.
Que Tucker, the NCHSAA’s deputy executive director, said the long list of affected schools is why the association does not re-seed any more after brackets are finalized. The NCHSAA did that once, and the resulting havoc forced the rule change.
“Certainly this is very disappointing for a school who would’ve been in the playoffs,” Tucker said. “They’ve been denied that opportunity because of an ineligible situation, but very rarely is an ineligible situation intentional.”
Douglas Byrd football coach Russell Stone said the NCHSAA should re-seed and disagreed with how the association handles situations in which administrative errors affect a whole team. Two years ago, the Eagles missed the postseason because a player was ruled ineligible for having a questionable custody arrangement.
Stone said the school should’ve been punished for poor paperwork instead of the team.
“You go ahead without the kid who violated the rule, but you don’t punish the team or the community,” Stone said. “You fine the school and make it so painful that it bothers or hurts the school or the administration. … If you do that, I don’t think many mistakes would be made.”
An NCHSAA committee discussed using Stone’s approach three years, Tucker said. But the members decided the rule should remain as is.
“If you have a quarterback who is putting up large numbers game after game after game and helping his team win, and you discover later he’s truly ineligible … then it stands to reason the team may have lost a few more games because the quarterback would’ve been ineligible,” Tucker said.
*****I do believe that Mr. Russell Stone used to be the head football coach over at West Forsyth….I think they played Richmond County in a State Championship game back in the late 80’s/early 90’s.*****(Will do the research at NCHSAA site.)