Ruling comes down on East for playing ineligible players

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16 2012 12:00 p.m. MDT

Bountiful vs. East in high school football played in Bountiful, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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WOODS CROSS — East High head football coach Brandon Matich sat on the edge of his chair with his head in his hands as sanctions were announced against the school and program for playing three ineligible players this season.

When the final punishment was announced — that he would not be allowed to coach the next two games of the season — he dropped his head, nearly into his lap, and wept.

After a lengthy, emotional hearing at Woods Cross High on Tuesday morning, the Region 6 Board of Managers voted 5-1 to impose a myriad of sanctions against the school and Matich, but they stopped short of forcing the team to vacate this season's wins.

For the coach, the relief was overwhelming, as the boys he loves will still be allowed to compete for a state title.

"We have not found him guilty of doing anything inappropriate," said John Haning, chairman of the group, which consists of the Region 6 schools. "We're trying to punish the school. The biggest thing is, besides the four players who played who are ineligible, there are 126 players who did it the right way, and they deserve a chance to play."

The sanctions, imposed because the team used three ineligible players this season, are as follows:

1. East will receive an official letter of reprimand, clearly stating that if there are any new cases of ineligible players participating in games — in any sport, for any reason — the games in which those players participated will be forfeited.

2. The school is on probation for one year.

3. The school will be fined $1,500, which is the maximum allowed by the rules.

4. The head football coach will be suspended for the next two games — that's a contest against Logan and the team's first playoff game.

5. No player in question will be allowed to play in future contests until they're deemed eligible by the UHSAA.

6. A required half-day training conducted by the UHSAA for all East High administrators and coaches. This has already been scheduled by principal Paul Sagers.

7. Dramatically change the current process of determining eligibility at East High. That process will include the principal checking, in conjunction with the head coaches, every student's eligibility paperwork and transcripts.

Matich and the undefeated team may have one more hurdle to clear, as the Utah High School Activities Association scheduled a 9:30 a.m. hearing for Wednesday on this matter, as well as Region 8's decision to vacate all of Timpview's region wins from last year and strip them of the 2011 region title. The five-member hearing panel, headed by UHSAA executive committee chairman Craig Hammer, will hear a report on both decisions and they have the authority to reduce penalties, increase penalties or affirm the decisions by each region.

In Tuesday's hearing, Bountiful High's principal was the only dissenting vote. Haning said the group tried to impose a penalty, solve the problem, and also balance the fact that dozens of students did nothing wrong and would be adversely affected by decisions that were outside of their control.

"I would have resigned my position if it would have allowed those kids to play," said Sagers. "We would have done anything."

When asked why Matich was punished, both Sagers and Haning said that was part of imposing a sanction against the school.

Haning said he hoped the sanctions and the discussion would encourage all principals to "take a better look at their process."