MIDVALE — Two Jordan High football players who moved to Utah from California a few months ago will not be eligible to play sports for the Beetdiggers.
A three-person panel made up of executive committee members of the Utah High School Activities Association ruled unanimously that Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata and Clifford Betson, both juniors, did not meet the requirements of the hardship waiver and also were disqualified because their guardian submitted paperwork with forged signatures on it.
"The panel was not persuaded that either of the boys had a hardship," said Utah High School Activities Association attorney Mark Van Wagoner. "They were disqualified for dishonesty and for lack of hardship."
Fa'agata was transferring from Encinal High School in Alameda, Calif., while Betson was transferring from Salesian High School in Richmond, Calif. Both boys said they'd witnessed drug abuse, violence, including shootings, as well as been involved in fights. They each recounted stories of being involved in fights, and Betson said he'd been threatened with a gun and robbed at gunpoint at least twice during Tuesday morning's hearing.
Betson said his parents asked Stuart Tua, who is his mother's second cousin, if he would allow the boy to live with Tua and his wife in Utah in hopes of providing a safer environment for him. Fa'agata, who is being raised by a single mother, recounted similar stories and said his mother was fed up with his fighting. The parents of both boys appointed Tua's wife legal guardian of the boys.
Tua attended the hearing and told the panel that the parents approached him about living in Utah with him last winter. He explained the family's close relationship and said he was trying to help his relatives, something he'd done with another cousin a few years ago, but she did not play sports.
The boys began attending school at Jordan High in May, but Stuart Tua did not submit transfer paperwork for the boys until August. He said it was more expensive and time consuming to complete the guardianship transfer than he originally expected.
When asked by the panel if he was the one who signed the names of the California principals, Tua invoked his fifth amendment right not to incriminate himself.
"There are other collateral consequences associated with any admission," said attorney Laura Lui.
Panel chairman Paul Schulte said that it was "difficult not to view (the refusal to answer the question) in a negative light."
Tua said he's not a coach at Jordan, but he is a "big high school football fan. That's my only relationship." He lives in the Jordan boundaries and has coached some non-high school affiliated teams.
He said he also delayed submitting the paperwork because he wanted to make sure the boys had at least a 3.0 grade point average before agreeing to let them play football.
"I could care less about football with these two," he said. "Their grades were horrible … I told them what they needed to do. I wasn't even sure I was going to let them play. There were a lot of other things they needed to do first."