The N.C. High School Athletics Association and Commissioner Davis Whitfield were shoved into an unenviable position last week when South Columbus appealed to Whitfield, then to the NCHSAA executive committee and ultimately to the NCHSAA Board of Directors following a 12-6 loss to Southern Vance in the first round of the state football playoffs.
There was no good solution. No right answer.
Southern Vance used an ineligible player in its victory. There is no question about that.
But the school never received notification that the player had been ejected, rather than disqualified.
Players who are ejected have to sit out the next game. Players who are disqualified do not.
Southern Vance left the field after its 37-22 loss to Franklintonin its regular-season finale believing the player had been disqualified.
Game officials sometimes change ejections to disqualifications after reflecting on what they saw and discussing the situation with their supervisors. But this time the ejection stood.
If the paperwork had been filed correctly, Southern Vance would have known about the ejection and probably would not have used him against South Columbus. But the paperwork wasnt filed.
The NCHSAA was not notified there had been an ejection and therefore there was no notification sent to Southern Vance
In hindsight, a reasonable and prudent coach would have checked to make sure it wasnt an ejection, but that is sort of like looking for trouble.
So Southern Vance used an ineligible player. The penalty is forfeiture.
After the first round, if a team forfeits, then no school advances to take its place. But since this was a first-round game, if Southern Vance forfeited, then South Columbus would have replaced it.
So South Columbus appealed. Whitfield ruled that since Southern Vance had not been notified of the ejection, something that should have happened, the Vikings didnt have to forfeit.
South Columbus appealed to the NCHSAA executive committee and later the board. The appeals were turned down.
There was no good solution.
The situation reminds me of the NCHSAA rule that doesnt require teams to forfeit for using ineligible players if documents have been faked, falsified or altered and the school has no way of reasonably knowing of the deception.
The schools want that rule in place because there are limits on how thoroughly they can investigate eligibility. If a student and the students care-givers lie and cheat, sometimes the school doesnt know.
It is a very bad rule, but one the schools want to keep.
The NCHSAA board is expected to look at the ejection rule and discuss the procedure used to notify schools of ejections during its December meetings.
But this time, there wasnt a good solution. I imagine a lot of people wish South Columbus, which finished 8-4, had found a way to score one more touchdown against a 5-6 Southern Vance team.
As it was, Southern Vance got to play one more game before being eliminated 42-22 by Eastern Randolph.