By Terrica Hendrix
No legal action will be taken by a local school district after its football team played – and was defeated by – a team which has now been disqualified from the Class 2A state football playoffs for allegedly using an ineligible player during the 2017 season.
“AAA [Arkansas Activities Association] contacted me this weekend with the actual policy number and the reference page,” Mineral Springs School Superintendent Thelma Metcalf Forte said.
“Their policy states upon the point of discovery the previous opponent (as related to the point of discovery) will be identified as the winning team, and that team will advance. This rule is applicable to all sports. The reference policy is 4F on page 27. The AAA representative was professional, honest and willing to explain the process to Coach [David] Bennett and me. He was transparent and he provided rationales for the final decision. I have a lot of respect for him and for the overall process. He was firm, fair, and consistent.”
The Mineral Springs School District “realizes the AAA has the responsibility to follow policies and guidelines that govern their organization. The AAA used current policies to make a time-sensitive decision. Like any thorough superintendent, I did contact our school lawyer, and our lawyer confirmed the policies were followed and there was no need to suspect any unfair practices. While our district and our community is saddened by the missed opportunity to continue in the playoffs, I feel compelled to quote one of our senior football players. He said, ‘We have lost an opportunity to continue in the playoffs, but the Earle senior players, who were innocent, lost much more. Several of their players were going to be scouted in the next game by college scouts. They will not have an opportunity to play in front of college scouts and this will cause them to lose scholarships. Their lives will never be the same. They have lost a playoff opportunity, the chance to compete for a state championship, and scholarship opportunities.’ We can all learn a lot from our students when we take the time to talk to them and listen. I agree with my insightful student, and I also know there aren’t any perfect solutions for an imperfect world filled with imperfect and unforeseeable situations. Everyone involved lost something important. We would like to thank the AAA for keeping us informed, and we wish every team represented in the playoffs well.”
West Memphis Evening Times Sports Editor Collins Peeples stated on Twitter that the player in question had transferred to Earle from nearby Marion two years ago. The transcripts from Marion showed that he had spent nine semesters there; however, Earle’s records showed that he spent eight, according to Insidefortsmith.com.
The Earle school is reportedly planning to file an injunction to keep its team’s season going, but, the district will have to prove legitimate errors or omissions in the official school transcript as received.