The WPIAL and PIAA differ on the interpretation of a rule -- and now the Washington High School football team again can think about the playoffs.
The PIAA voted, 5-0, Thursday afternoon to overturn a previous WPIAL ruling that ordered Washington to forfeit five wins for the use of an ineligible player who is in his fifth year of high school. A PIAA appeals board made the ruling after a hearing via conference call with Washington school officials.
The PIAA's ruling means the Little Prexies have a 6-2 record and will qualify for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs as the second-place team from the Class AA Interstate Conference. The playoffs begin next Friday. If Washington had to forfeit five games it would have dropped the Little Prexies to 1-7 and out of the WPIAL playoffs.
At issue was the status of Quorteze Levy, a senior receiver-defensive back at Washington who is in his fifth year of high school. The PIAA and WPIAL follow the same rules, and the rules state that a student gets only four consecutive years (eight semesters) to participate in athletics. Levy attended a school in Michigan as a ninth-grader, but did not participate in sports. He then transferred to Washington and repeated the ninth grade because of academic problems. He stayed at Washington for the next four years.
Washington athletic director Joe Nicolella said the school didn't realize Levy was in his fifth year until last Friday when a guidance counselor was looking at his transcript for college. Washington immediately turned itself in to the WPIAL, and the league's board of control had a hearing Monday with Levy, Washington coach Mike Bosnic and Washington school officials.
Washington admitted its error, but asked for a hardship waiver to grant a fifth year of eligibility for Levy because of family and social issues he had to deal with as a freshman in Michigan.
The WPIAL and PIAA are allowed to grant extra eligibility for special circumstances, whether medical or "environmental, social and/or emotional."
The WPIAL granted Levy a waiver for an extra year of eligibility in all sports (he also plays basketball and runs track). But the WPIAL said Levy was only eligible starting this past Monday when Washington applied for the waiver. The league said Levy was ineligible before the waiver application, and PIAA and WPIAL rules clearly state a team must forfeit any games in which an ineligible player is used. Thus, the WPIAL said Washington had to forfeit five games.
But Washington appealed the case to the PIAA, and that's where the difference of opinions came into play.
The WPIAL contends that nowhere in the PIAA bylaws does it say a waiver can be issued retroactively to the start of the semester.
"The bylaw says you can grant eligibility for one or two semesters. It does not say you can grant eligibility retroactively," said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley.
"You can't take away the fact that he was ineligible the first seven games that he played.
"We applied the bylaw and granted eligibility Oct. 21. Prior to the request, he was used ineligible."
But PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said: "The rule doesn't say a partial semester or give a date. It's the whole semester or two semesters and everything that goes with it. The challenge for our appeal board was they were asked to interpret whether ineligibility is allowed to be granted for a partial semester. Our board felt unanimously it was not. If [the WPIAL] found he was ineligible for an extra semester then Washington would've had to forfeit."
In his 26 years involved with high school athletics administration, Lombardi said he has never encountered a situation dealing with an eligibility ruling for a partial semester.
But this is yet another example of the WPIAL and PIAA differing over eligibility of student-athletes. Over the years, the PIAA has overturned the WPIAL on numerous transfers who were ruled ineligible for transferring with athletic intent. O'Malley believes the PIAA isn't following its own rules and some need to be clarified.
"If this rule about waivers is intended to be retroactive, it needs to be stated," O'Malley said.
First Published October 24, 2013 2:36 PM