— Sentinel Sports (@orlandosports) November 5, 2015
Orange City (Fla.) University High’s football team had its playoff hopes dashed Thursday when the Florida High School Athletic Association forced the Titans to forfeit their season due to an ineligible player.
However, a group of parents are taking the perceived injustice into their own hands, hiring an attorney to seek an injunction in court that would allow them to keep playing, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“The kids were penalized excessively and unfairly,” University High volunteer assistant coach Joe Rago, also the father of junior center Joey Rago, told the paper. “To punish a group of kids for this sort of error is unjust and quite frankly in [the parents’] minds against the law.
“We’re going to fight for these kids.”
While setting its playoff roster, University reported the violation upon discovering a transfer student only produced first-semester grades from his previous school year in Maryland, rather than the requisite transcripts from two straight semesters, per the report. The FHSAA denied an appeal, issuing a $1,000 fine and requiring the athletic director to attend a compliance seminar in addition to vacating the season.
Parents are obviously frustrated that a matter concerning one student-athlete would end the team’s 8-2 campaign before its previously scheduled regional quarterfinal matchup with Mandarin (Jacksonville, Fla.). The lawyer hired to represent University’s interests is reportedly seeking the injunction based on this bylaw:
The FHSAA bylaws may not limit the competition of student athletes prospectively for rule violations of their school or its coaches or their adult representatives. The FHSAA bylaws may not unfairly punish student athletes for eligibility or recruiting violations perpetrated by a teammate, coach, or administrator. Contests may not be forfeited for inadvertent eligibility violations unless the coach or a school administrator should have known of the violation. Contests may not be forfeited for other eligibility violations or recruiting violations in excess of the number of contests that the coaches and adult representatives responsible for the violations are prospectively suspended.
The problem University may face is proving the oversight was inadvertent, since the player was clearly ineligible based on FHSAA guidelines. The player’s name has remained anonymous out of respect for the student-athlete, who must be feeling awful right about now, but he did play in all 10 of his team’s games, and the degree to which he helped University finish second in the district should also be considered.
In the meantime, the district’s third-place team, Oviedo, has taken University’s place in the regional playoffs.
“Wow, we’ll go play. It’s been a crazy hour,” Oviedo coach Wes Allen told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday. “We’re glad we’re in. To get another breath of life is great for our kids.”
Regardless of the ruling on the injunction, now one team will be disappointed come Nov. 13, no matter what.