The Washington High School football team likely will have to forfeit six victories and will be booted out of the WPIAL playoffs for using an ineligible player who is in his fifth year of high school.
WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said he will inform Washington of penalties this morning for using senior receiver-defensive back Quorteze Ivy, who attended ninth grade at a school in Michigan and then was a student for four years at Washington. Under PIAA and WPIAL rules, a student only gets four years (eight semesters) to participate in athletics once he enters ninth grade.
The WPIAL board of control had a hearing with Ivy and Washington school officials Monday afternoon, and the board decided on a penalty afterward. Washington turned itself in to the WPIAL Friday.
Washington coach Mike Bosnic, who attended the hearing, said the school learned of Ivy's situation when the guidance department recently reviewed his transcripts for college. Bosnic said it was "an honest mistake" that had slipped through the cracks at the school the past few years and that Washington was hoping for leniency from the WPIAL.
Although O'Malley said he wouldn't make the penalty public until he informs Washington school officials, he said, "If you look at the rules in the penalty phase, it says a school that uses an ineligible player must forfeit, period."
Even though Ivy didn't participate in sports as a ninth-grader in Michigan, O'Malley said, "Your clock starts ticking when you start ninth grade and you only have four years."
Washington was 7-1 and had qualified for the Class AA playoffs as the second-place team from the Interstate Conference. The Little Prexies also had earned the right to play host to a first-round playoff game.
But it's likely the team's season will end with the final regular-season game Friday at Waynesburg. Washington made it to the WPIAL title game last year.
At many high schools, the athletic office is responsible for knowing an athlete's eligibility, possibly working with the guidance office or other school personnel. Washington athletic director Joe Nicolella was hired in May 2009. He didn't respond to interview requests.
"I know Mr. Nicolella well enough that he would never purposely overlook something like this," Bosnic said, "and there are too many good people in the Washington School District that would ever purposely do this. I believe in the bottom of my heart it was an honest mistake.
"When [Ivy] came here, he had to repeat his freshman year, but every year he just moved on with the same kids to his sophomore, junior and senior years. I think this wasn't caught because there were no red flags. He has never had any disciplinary problems. There were no red flags to look at his transcripts.
"And I just think the kid or his parents didn't know the rule. I think if I was a kid his age, I wouldn't have known this rule, either."
It has been a trying year for Washington, one of the top teams in Class AA of the WPIAL. First, star running back Shai McKenzie had a season-ending knee injury in the third game. Then, there was a controversial eligibility case involving offensive lineman Zach Blystone. The WPIAL and PIAA ruled him ineligible, saying he transferred from Charleroi to Washington for athletic intent.
Blystone played in one game and won a preliminary injunction in court to play. But he then dropped the case because he was worried Washington might have to forfeit games he played in.
"It's been hard to even eat the past couple days," Bosnic said. "It has been a tough, tough year."
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.
First Published October 21, 2013 5:02 PM