TPS looks into BTW eligibility
BY BARRY LEWIS World Sports Writer
Sunday, October 25, 2009
10/25/09 at 7:40 PM
Tulsa Public Schools is investigating the eligibility of multiple Booker T. Washington athletes, including football players.
If football players are found to be ineligible and have participated in games this season, it raises the possibility the team could be forced to forfeit games, which could jeopardize the defending Class 5A state champion's playoff hopes.
TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard told the Tulsa World that he hopes to have the school district's internal review complete as early as Monday afternoon.
"We had some questions raised Tuesday or Wednesday about the eligibility of some athletes," Ballard said. "I think we will know more early in the week. I'm not going to sweep it under the rug and I'm not going to drag it out."
If athletes are ruled ineligible, Booker T. Washington could face penalties from the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association. Tulsa Public Schools officials haven't revealed how many sports are investigated. The district also hasn't revealed how many players' eligibility is being reviewed.
If football players are ruled ineligible, the team — which has a 6-2 record overall and a 4-1 record in District 5A-3 games — potentially could be stripped of wins.
The OSSAA has the power to force teams to forfeit games in which the OSSAA rules that ineligible players played a notable role. Multiple forfeits could be devastating to the Hornets' playoff hopes.
TPS Athletic Director Stephanie Spring informed OSSAA Executive Secretary Ed Sheakley on Friday that an investigation is occurring. Spring also is the president of OSSAA's board of directors. The board is in charge of enforcing the OSSAA's rules.
"The eligibility of several Booker T. Washington athletes is under review at this time," Spring said on Saturday. "Tulsa Public Schools is undergoing an investigation and will report any or all findings to the OSSAA."
In a telephone interview Saturday, Sheakley said: "I don't really know much about it. Stephanie talked to me yesterday (Friday) and said that there was an ongoing investigation regarding coaches, participants, policies and procedures."
In football season, teams qualify for the playoffs by their district record. Four teams qualify for the postseason from each district. Booker T. Washington's 4-1 district record is tied for second place with Bixby in 5A-3. Bishop Kelley has a 5-0 record and leads the race. Hale is fourth at 3-2, followed by Pryor and Miami at 2-3.
Booker T. Washington is ranked No. 2 in the Tulsa World's Class 5A state rankings. With two games left in the regular season, the Hornets already have clinched a playoff berth — if they aren't forced to forfeit wins.
Booker T. Washington quarterback Jordy Albert, who joined the Hornets this season after playing for Bishop Kelley last year, did not play in a 48-6 win over Rogers on Friday night.
Albert had filled in for injured starter Eric Bennett since the third quarter of a 35-6 win against Pryor on Oct. 9. Albert scored two touchdowns against Pryor and then passed for two TDs as he led the Hornets to a 24-8 victory over Hale in his only start on Oct. 15.
Hornets coaches refused comment after the Rogers game on Friday night.
Stripping a program of wins late in a season has recent precedent. In 2005, Victory Christian, which had one of the best football teams in Class 3A, was discovered late in the regular season to have used two ineligible players.
As a result, the OSSAA forced Victory Christian to forfeit five wins. The forfeits left Victory with too few wins in district play to qualify for the playoffs. Then-coach Jim Cherry was suspended for the rest of the season. Cherry returned as Victory's coach in 2006 and is now Edison's coach.
Last year, Jenks used an ineligible player, Jarrett Lake, but participated in the 2008 football playoffs because Lake was not ruled ineligible until after the season. The Trojans forfeited the nine wins in which Lake participated. If Lake's ineligibility had been discovered during the 2008 season, the Trojans' forfeits would have kept them out of the playoffs.
There is some urgency to determine if the Hornets football players are eligible. The playoffs begin Nov. 13.
World staff writer Andrea Eger contributed to this article.
Barry Lewis 581-8393