High school football: UHSAA releases written decisions on East, Timpview
It reiterated that the mistakes made by East athletic director Kathy Butler and principal Paul Sagers were not "clerical errors" and that the school's failure to determine eligibility left the UHSAA panel with the responsibility of protecting those innocent players who'd relied on the school to follow the rules.
"We accept in full the findings of the EC Hearing Panel regarding East’s egregious violations of the rules," the decision said. "East willfully turned a blind eye to these problems and evidenced a total lack of institutional control. In so doing, East put the Association in the untenable position of attempting to salvage the eligibility of its students, notwithstanding that their eligibility was threatened not by any act of the Association, but rather by East’s own failures and violations."
The panel found grave errors in the system used by East to determine eligibility in each of the four cases, specifically with the athletic director and principal.
"These were not mere 'clerical errors,' despite East’s attempt to minimize its own recklessness," the panel said. "When questioned, East admitted that the errors here were not clerical but wholesale failures to follow the rules. There were at least four admitted instances in which students who should have submitted paperwork for a hardship waiver to establish eligibility were purportedly told by the AD that they did not need to do so. In each case, the excuse given in the hearings for this failure was based on untenable and unreasonable interpretations of the rules. These notions were so plainly wrong that no one, including any administrator, could have thought them correct."
The panel found the mistakes to be more sinister than oversights or misjudgements. The decision also chastised East's administration for not involving head coach Brandon Matich in determining eligibility of student athletes.
"In practice, the head coach is the person most likely to recognize and report new and possibly ineligible players. Clearly, under the Association’s rules, the East coach continued to have this duty, but the East principal circumvented it by suggesting that all the eligibility matters be placed on the shoulders of the AD. Consequently, by order of her principal, she could not expect help from either the principal or the coach. We cannot be certain that it was deliberate, but it set the stage for her to appear responsible for failures that actually belonged to the principal and head coach.
"These sorts of violations were, in our view, the inevitable result of this mismanagement of the rules by the principal. He is, after all, the official to whom the Association trusts with the responsibility of eligibility."
Meanwhile, the panel said in its written statement it did not find the penalty imposed against Timpview by the Executive Committee panel two days earlier was too harsh a penalty on the T-birds.
Additionally, a fourth game was imposed in the Board of Trustees' decision because Timpview reported a fourth violation in its appeal hearing last Friday.
"Timpview argued that the decision in which it had participated, that of Region 8, should be reinstated," the panel said. "Timpview did not seek nor present any argument or refer to any evidence suggesting that the Panel should use discretion to avoid a substantial or harsh result for any Timpview students. This Panel unanimously affirms the decision of the EC Panel in all regards, noting that Timpview will have to forfeit one additional game."