High school football: UHSAA overturns ruling; East will make playoffs as fourth seed, Timpview forfeits stand

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 4:00 p.m. MDT

East High School football team captain Patrick Palau and Coach Brandon Matich celebrate the UHSAA ruling that East High can compete in the playoffs at East High School in Salt Lake City on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

MIDVALE — The top-ranked East High football team will be allowed to keep just enough wins to make the 4A playoffs, while second-ranked Timpview will forfeit four games in which an ineligible student athlete played.

The seemingly contradictory decisions were an attempt by a sub-panel of the Utah High School Activities Association's Board of Trustees to show mercy to the East High football players while trying to punish the administrations of both schools for a failure to ensure the players representing the school were eligible to compete.

"The panel wanted to treat East as Snow Canyon (baseball) was treated," said UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner, who will issue a written decision on both cases in the next few days. "They get a severe penalty, but they still have a chance to play (in the playoffs). It was the timing of the discovery of the violation. The association is enormously unhappy with East High School for putting us in this spot, and also for the Salt Lake School District for taking sides."

Van Wagoner said the panel felt for the 120 innocent student athletes who would miss the playoffs because of the failure of East's administration to properly establish eligibility.

"We were the ones who were asked to watch out for the kids when East High School failed to do so," said Van Wagoner. "The panel tried to ameliorate the harm that East High School had done to their players. They failed to protect their own students … This is not a clerical error. This is complete, wholesale mismanagement."

East head coach Brandon Matich was overcome by emotion when the list of penalties was handed to him, but this time his tears were in relief and gratitude.

"I think it's fair because my boys get to play," said Matich, who was suspended for three games. "The most important thing is the kids get to play. And that's why we're in this business. We're in it for the success of kids, and that's what I wanted all along."

The penalties to East changed for the third time in four days after the panel made up of members of the Board of Trustees tried to allow East a playoff spot while punishing both schools for playing ineligible players. The Timpview case was complicated when principal Todd McKee informed the panel that they'd found another game in which an ineligible player was used during Region 8 play.

The panel voted not only to force Timpview to forfeit all four of the games in which that player competed, but they also imposed many of the more harsh sanctions that they imposed on East.

The penalties against East include putting them in the playoffs as the number four seed; suspending Matich for three games; assessing the school with a $6,000 fine; taking the region title and putting them on three years probation. Also none of the ineligible players will be allowed to play for the remainder of this season.

The penalties against Timpview include forfeiting all games in which an ineligible player participated, including region games against Maple Mountain and Mountain View; assess the school a $1,500 fine; and three years probation.

There are a number of unanswered questions including what is East's record? Which specific games will East forfeit? And why was Timpview asked to forfeit all games in which an ineligible player participated

Van Wagoner confirmed that the majority of wins in which ineligible players were used will be forfeited or vacated. Which games those are, however, is still being decided.

The decision had wide-ranging implications for the playoffs, which begin on Tuesday with a play-in game at Mountain View against East. If East wins, they could face the top-seeded Region 7 team, Herriman. Timpview is likely Region 8's third seed, which means they travel to Logan to take on the defending state champs.

The head coach of the reigning 4A state champion team was baffled by the decision and questioned how two standards could be applied in like cases.