The WPIAL has ordered the Washington High School football team to forfeit wins for using an ineligible player who is in his fifth year of high school, but the team still could go to the playoffs if Washington wins an appeal to the PIAA Thursday.
The WPIAL informed Washington Tuesday that it had to forfeit five wins for using senior receiver-defensive back Quorteze Levy, 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 consecutive years (eight semesters) to participate in athletics once he enters ninth grade.
Washington turned itself in to the WPIAL Friday after a guidance counselor at the school discovered on Levy’s transcript that he was in his fifth year of high school. Washington had appealed to the WPIAL for a hardship waiver because Levy did not play sports in ninth grade at the Michigan school. After a hearing with Levy and Washington officials Monday, the WPIAL granted the hardship waiver, making Levy eligible to play any sports the rest of the school year. The waiver granted Monday, however, was not retroactive to the start of the school year.
The WPIAL contends when Levy played the games for Washington, he was ineligible. Washington is appealing to the PIAA, hoping it will make the waiver retroactive to the beginning of the school year.
That way, Washington would not have to forfeit wins.
Washington actually has to forfeit six games overall, but the other forfeit was for using Zach Blystone in a game against Brownsville. Blystone had been ruled ineligible by the PIAA and WPIAL for transferring from Charleroi to Washington for athletic intent, which is against league rules.
The six losses will drop Washington’s record from 7-1 to 1-7. Washington didn’t use Levy in its victory Friday. Washington had qualified for the WPIAL playoffs that begin Nov. 1.
“[Levy] was ineligible until the waiver was granted, and the rule clearly states that the penalty for using an ineligible player is forfeiture,” said WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley. “This was a hard decision by our board because we feel bad, but we can’t emotionally make a decision.
“What the board members were elected to do is enforce rules as they are written.”
PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the league has put together a five-member appeals panel that will hear the case Thursday on a conference call.
“I think the question is going to be will the waiver be granted for the full semester or just a partial semester,” Lombardi said.
There is past precedence to suggest the PIAA might overturn the WPIAL.
In 2009, the WPIAL ruled Center High School had to forfeit three track meet victories for using an ineligible runner. Roman Scott transferred from a school in California in January, and Center never filed the appropriate paper work to the WPIAL until the middle of the season. The WPIAL ruled him eligible at that point but made Center forfeit the three previous meets, saying Scott was ineligible at that time.
The three forfeits would have knocked Center out of the WPIAL team track playoffs. But the PIAA overturned the WPIAL, saying Scott was eligible from his date of transfer and not from the day the WPIAL ruled him eligible.
Tuesday, Washington athletic director Joe Nicolella said it was the responsibility of the athletic office to check an athlete’s eligibility.
“I don’t know how we missed his freshman year at Michigan, but we missed it,” Nicolella said. “There is a protocol in place here, but that protocol certainly needs to be addressed and tweaked.”
Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.