UPDATE: OHSAA Rescinds Football Forfeitures for Eastern High School

By: Lauren Schmoll Email
By: Lauren Schmoll Email

UPDATE 10/25/12 @ 6 p.m.
MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- There's one phrase that best describes Diana Westfall.

“Football mom. I'm a total football mom,” Westfall said.

Her son Wyatt plays varsity football at Eastern High School.
This year -- the team has the chance to make the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.

“We've worked for it,” Wyatt said. “At the beginning of the year, from two a days on. We've been working for this the whole time.”

“It's ... it's amazing,” Westfall said. “I know maybe it wouldn't mean that much to other people. But to us, it's everything to us.”

Those playoff dreams were nearly crushed Monday.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association ruled to strip Eastern of two of its victories after the school self reported a paperwork error involving a transfer student.

“It was devastating,” Westfall said. “I didn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. I cried.”

On Wednesday, Head Coach David Tennant told WSAZ.com it would take a miracle to get things fixed in time to make the playoffs.

“Barring a miracle it's over,” Tennant said.

By late Thursday night, that miracle came. The OHSAA reversed its decision after new paperwork was submitted by the transfer students’ family.

“I believe it was a miracle,” Westfall said. “I believe it is a miracle. Yeah, I truly do.”

“It was just amazing,” Wyatt said. “Amazing to hear. To find out. Wonderful.”

Wyatt says for the kids, it's more than a game.

“For a lot of them, this is it,” she said. “They play high school football -- maybe get some awards -- and that's pretty much it. So the more they can get, the better I guess it is for them in their overall life.”

She continued, “Sometimes it does work out for the best. Not always, but sometimes it does. And you don't give up. Keep trying."

It's a winning attitude they'll carry on to the field Saturday night.

UPDATE 10/25/12 @ 4 p.m.
MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Eastern High School is now playoff eligible for the first time in more than a decade.

The OHSAA previously forfeited two of Eastern's victories due to a clerical error with a transfer student.

According to a release from the OHSAA, court documents previously not provided to the OHSAA or Eastern Local Schools were submitted by the family of an Easter High School student late Thursday afternoon. The paperwork showed that court rulings in both Ohio and Florida prove that legal custody proceedings for the student had happened before the student played in any of the games.

“We are happy for the family and the school that these new documents were submitted,” Dr. Dan Ross, OHSAA Commissioner, said. “Forfeitures, especially in a sport like football where not every team qualifies for the postseason, can be a difficult process. However, that cannot prevent the OHSAA from following the bylaws established by our member schools, including Eastern. I commend our staff for doing a thorough job and being willing to take the criticism that came with this particular situation.”

According to the release, Eastern High School will still face sanctions, including a significant fine and follow-up education for the violation.

"We at Eastern Local are very happy about the decision of OHSAA and highly respect and appreciate their efforts in working with us through this difficult situation,” said Scot Gheen, superintendent of Eastern Local Schools. “We believe this was a fair and equitable resolution for both parties. We look forward to the continued membership with OHSAA and will use this process as a guide to better enhance the correct protocols in the future.”

The two victories will be reflected Sunday when the OHSAA’s final football computer points ratings are released at OHSAA.org.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 10/25/12
MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Forfeits enforced against Eastern High School will be reversed, according to the director of information services for the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).

Tim Stried told WSAZ.com that the schools football wins will be reinstated Friday based on new information submitted late Thursday.

Eastern had to forfeit two of its wins earlier in the week due to an eligibility requirement that wasn't met, eliminating its chance at the playoffs.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.

UPDATE 10/25/12
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSAZ) -- The Ohio High School Athletic Association issued the following statement Thursday on the eligibility issue at Eastern High School:

"This student transfer/residency issue is not simply a case of administrative error, as the Eastern administrators suggest. First, the school allowed a transfer student-athlete to participate in several contests without getting an eligibility ruling from the OHSAA. Then, when the school finally requested an eligibility ruling, it was discovered that the student-athlete was living in the district through a Power of Attorney document, which is not applicable to establish either residence or transfer athletic eligibility. Thus, the student-athlete was clearly not eligible to participate, which results in forfeitures.

"Just recently, a court-approved Change of Custody has occurred for this student-athlete. Thus, he is now eligible to participate, but that does not change the fact that the school did not request an eligibility ruling and even when it did, the student-athlete did not meet a transfer or residency exception at the time he began his participation.

"The cases which the Eastern administrators referenced are not applicable to this situation because the students in the other cases were otherwise eligible pending the proper documentation be provided to the OHSAA for an eligibility ruling. In the case of this student at Eastern, he was not eligible until the recent court-approved Change of Custody, which occurred after he had participated in several contests. Thus, in applying Bylaw 10-2-1, victorious contests in which ineligible players have participated must be forfeited.

"When Eastern administrators initially informed the OHSAA of this situation, they told the OHSAA that a legal change of custody had occurred. If that were true, the penalty would have included only a monetary fine for administrative error. However, when Eastern submitted the documentation, it was discovered that a legal change of custody had not occurred and that it was only a Power of Attorney document.

"It is unfortunate that the Eastern administrators have cited other cases and insinuated that their case is the same. This case is clearly not the same, and the forfeitures will stand. The OHSAA does not take forfeitures lightly, but member schools, including Eastern, have adopted the bylaws and it is the responsibility of each member schools to follow all procedures.

"In summary, Eastern administrators did not request an eligibility ruling for a transfer student, and when they finally did submit documentation, it was discovered that the student did not meet either a residency or transfer bylaw exception. "

ORIGINAL STORY 10/24/12 11:50 p.m.
MEIGS COUNTY, Ohio (WSAZ) -- Tim Minear is a senior football player at Eastern High School. He knows what it takes to have a winning team.

“If you have a winning football team, it's not because you're more skilled than everybody else,” Minear said. “It's because you're a team.”

Tim knows because his team is one. With its best record in years, the Eagles had the chance to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2001. That is until a clerical error involving a transfer student led to a harsh punishment by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

“It was a clerical error,” Head Coach David Tennant said. “Just paperwork. Nobody was trying to get away with anything. It was pretty much, we found the mistake, we turned ourselves in and we pretty much got the death penalty.”

The school had to forfeit two of its wins, eliminating its chance at the playoffs.

“Barring a miracle it's over,” Tennant said.

“Was it our fault?” Menear asked. “Was it the players who play every night to make their community proud? Was it our fault that this happened? Was it something that couldn't be fixed? It was just a piece of paper.”

“It happened and you can't change it,” senior quarterback Joey Scowden said. “It's something that no one on the team did and no one on the team can fix. It's almost like you've just gotta sit there and take it.”

Wednesday night, the school board held a meeting with the community. It was standing room only. And just about everyone shared the players' pain.

“For my fellow seniors and me this was it,” Minear said. “This was our final bang. And they've just kinda taken it away.”

The coach says it's highly unlikely the OHSAA will change its decision before the playoff brackets come out-- which means Eastern will most likely not be going this year. He does encourage fans to give the OHSAA a call though, and voice complaints.

Tennant says he's received calls of support from teams as far away as Cleveland. He also told WSAZ.com this same situation has happened recently with two other schools in Ohio. But for those schools, there was only a hundred dollar fine and no forfeiture of games.

That's why this punishment is so hard to swallow.

Eastern has one final game this Saturday against its big rival, Southern. The team says it wants to see as many fans in the stands as there would be at the playoffs.

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