The Pittsford football team has not been investigated by Section V at any point this season for using an ineligible player. That’s because the Panthers never used one and followed State Education Department law to the letter in handling a player who transferred into the district this school year, Section V executive director Ed Stores said Tuesday.
Stores spoke to the Democrat and Chronicle in an attempt to clear the air about Pittsford and a potential residency issue for one of its players.
“Pittsford had done absolutely nothing wrong,” he said. “In fact, the kid was eligible the whole time until Pittsford pulled the plug on him when the residency situation fell through.”
There has been widespread speculation in the high school football community locally over the last few days that if the player was deemed ineligible, it would cost the second-seeded Panthers their spot in the Section V Class AA playoffs, which start Friday. That would grant the No. 8 seed to Aquinas, the defending state champion that was knocked out of the 2014 playoffs after using an ineligible player, quarterback Jake Zembiec. That controversy swirled for more than a week.
The Panthers (6-1) host No. 7 Hilton (4-3) in a Section V Class AA Tournament opener on Saturday.
Pittsford officials and Stores declined to identify the player, but it’s known that boy played in five games. He missed the season opener because he didn’t have enough practices and missed Friday’s win against Penfield in the regular-season finale after Pittsford deemed him ineligible after the player’s guardians failed to meet their latest deadline in the process to establish residency in the district.
“Pittsford has kept me involved in this right from the beginning, back to August,” Stores said.
The player’s legal guardians to Pittsford school officials and “laid out a plan for residency” that superintendent Mike Pero “would accept,” Stores said. He further explained that it’s not uncommon for school districts to grant residency to a student earlier than an actual move-in date because closing on new homes can take months.
“That’s educationally sound and we go along with that,” Stores said. “Any superintendent will tell you there’s a list of criteria you use to establish residency and they did that (in this situation). The guardians were given a timeline by which it had to comply.
“For reasons I don’t know, that residency plan for the guardian fell apart and the day it fell apart Pittsford said to the kid, ‘You’re no longer a resident of the district, so you’re done.’ They called me to verify that.”
That day was Oct. 10. The player missed the next game, Friday’s win over Penfield, but under State Education Department Law can be reinstated after a two-week appeal. That appeal started Friday when Pittsford officials met with the guardian.
During the appeal, the player is allowed to practice with the team but can’t play. If the guardian shows documents such as an accepted purchase offer on a house or bank statement saying it has purchased a house, the player can be reinstated immediately during that two-week window.