Washington High to forfeit wins, miss playoffs for ineligible player
The WPIAL Board of Control believed PIAA rules left it with no choice but to force Washington to forfeit football victories and miss the playoffs for using an ineligible player.
The board granted a hardship waiver to senior Quorteze Levy, whose school noticed just last week that he was in his fifth year of high school.
The waiver makes him immediately eligible for the rest of this school year, but the board could not grant eligibility retroactively, executive director Tim O'Malley said.
“There's nothing in the bylaws to give that flexibility,” he said. “Does it say you can? No. Does it say you can't? No. There's no direction.”
As a result, the Prexies must forfeit the seven games that Levy played while ineligible. That includes victories over Greensburg Central Catholic, Southmoreland, Charleroi, Yough and Jeannette. The punishment dropped Washington (1-7, 0-7) from second place to last in the nine-team Class AA Interstate Conference. The team already was forced to forfeit a Week 7 victory over Brownsville for a separate violation.
Washington has appealed to the PIAA, football coach Mike Bosnic said, with hope it will interpret the rules differently.
“I can't speak for anybody else, but I have a good feeling that it will,” Bosnic said. “Of course, with the way things have gone this year, nothing would surprise me at this point.”
The hearing tentatively has been scheduled for Thursday. The testimony will be conducted over a conference call, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said. The WPIAL football playoff pairings are released Monday, so the appeal must move quickly.
“This case is very unusual,” Lombardi said. “In my 20 years involved in the PIAA, I don't think we've ever had one like this before.”
The WPIAL held an eligibility hearing for Levy Monday. The senior attended ninth grade in Kalamazoo, Mich., but repeated his freshman year at Washington after transferring. The PIAA limits athletes' eligibility to four consecutive years once they enter ninth grade. The oversight was noticed by a guidance counselor last week.
“He's been a model student,” athletic director Joe Nicolella said. “He has no disciplinary records in his file. No attendance problems. There were no red flags with this kid to even go into his files and start rooting around. It just came about with his senior interview, checking NCAA eligibility for him.”
This was the second eligibility issue this season for Washington. Junior lineman Zach Blystone, who transferred from Charleroi with what was ruled to “athletic intent” took his case to court after the WPIAL and PIAA found him ineligible, but later dropped his lawsuit. The WPIAL forced Washington to forfeit its victory over Brownsville because Blystone played while ineligible.
“It's been a really tough football season, just an emotional roller coaster,” Bosnic said. “This is just another strange turn.”