Elkins High School officials learned Wednesday that the school football team must forfeit its wins this season, after the state Secondary Schools Activities Commission ruled one of the team's players is ineligible.
"I don't know how we're going to pick up the pieces," Randolph County Superintendent of Schools Dr. James Phares said Wednesday. "It's going to be devastating to the players to have their hard work go to waste."
The student, who transferred to EHS this year, was deemed ineligible because school officials failed to obtain a waiver for him from the WVSSAC, Phares said in a phone conversation Wednesday afternoon. Phares declined to name the student, saying he was restricted from doing so by law.
informed EHS?of the ineligibility ruling Wednesday.
EHS Principal David Fincham and Athletic Director Todd Price compiled an eligibility list of players, which has to be certified every year and covers grades, residency and guardianship, Phares said.
"The principal (Fincham) is responsible for certifying the list," Phares said. "He felt in good faith that everyone was eligible."
The student in question "has academic standing and the other requirements to be eligible," Phares said.
"Whether it was a mistake or an oversight, I haven't gotten into that yet. I'm still trying to get over the shock.
"We are going to investigate the matter fully. Any disciplinary action against the principal or athletic director would be a personnel matter (that officials could not speak about publicly)."
Phares said a written complaint from a neighboring county was submitted to the WVSSAC, and the ruling was made Wednesday morning.
Gary Ray, executive director of the WVSSAC, speaking with The Inter-Mountain Wednesday afternoon, declined to say who submitted the complaint.
"It would serve no purpose," Ray said, but he noted the complaint did not come from another school or any school official.
"We hate that this happened," Ray said. "We're working with Elkins High School. Currently, the only penalty is they must forfeit all athletic contests he participated in," and the student cannot take part in athletics the rest of the school year.
Ray said the boy's family or the school could appeal his eligibility.
"Exceptions can be granted by the board of directors" of the WVSSAC, he said.
"However, if such an appeal were successful, the student would only be eligible from the date of that decision forward, and the decision would not restore EHS's football wins.
"When he played in those games, he was ineligible," Ray said.
Phares said a local attorney, Lori Gray, represents the player's family and is contemplating filing an injunction. Contacted by The Inter-Mountain Wednesday afternoon, Gray's representative said the attorney could not speak about the situation at that time.
Phares said school boards normally do not appeal rulings from the WVSSAC, but the Randolph board's attorney is reviewing this case "to see if there is any recourse."
The student transferred to EHS because his parent signed over guardianship rights to his grandmother, Phares said.
Because he transferred after a federal deadline to report such transfers, school officials never thought to send in the required paperwork, the superintendent said.
Phares said he would take "responsibility" for the waiver error, which he said was a "technical issue" and not an instance of anyone cheating or doing something underhanded.
The superintendent also noted the student had not played football prior to this season and is actually a better basketball player.
EHS?head football coach Greg Hott declined to comment on the situation Wednesday.
Phares said the EHS football team was to be notified of the WVSSAC ruling at Wednesday's practice by the coaches and Fincham.
"I know the community got behind this football team, and it is going to be devastating to a lot of people," Phares said.