Friday, November 23, 2012
Goose Creek High School’s fight to be reinstated to the playoffs came to a fruitless end last week but the real scuffle could be just beginning.
To hear Gators football coach Chuck Reedy talk, anger and frustration toward the South Carolina High School League Executive Committee is boiling over statewide in the wake of it’s “heartless” treatment of the Gators that has stoked fires and memories of past executive committee decisions gone awry.
The committee erased Goose Creek from the playoffs for using an ineligible player after the school self reported a potential violation following its first-round playoff victory over Conway. The player is a special needs student on a non-diploma track that played just 17 snaps out of nearly 1,600 during the Gators’ 13-0 season. He never entered a game Goose Creek wasn’t winning by at least 41 points.
“In 38 years of being associated with coaching football and athletics, I’ve never seen such a total disregard, not only for the truth but, a lack of care or concern for kids,” Reedy said. “… (On Monday) there was obviously no interest by this committee to get to the truth. They had their mind made up.”
At the heart of Reedy’s comments is the harshness of the penalty and the widespread devastation it caused the Goose Creek community. A self-reporting team was given the same treatment as one who would knowingly cheat. The Charleston-area also had no true representation on the 18-member committee since GCHS Principal Jimmy Huskey was not allowed to vote.
“There’s a difference between killing somebody and speeding,” Reedy said.
The issue began when Huskey discovered a problem on the player’s transcript while reviewing eligibility for basketball on Nov. 12. The transcript had been updated since the athlete’s eligibility review in August for football and showed four prior years of high school. The original showed just three years of high school and that the student-athlete last attended Berkeley High School in 2011-12, so he cleared the eligibility process at that time.
Reedy and Huskey notified the SCHSL within 90 minutes and were promptly booted from the playoffs, leading to the week-long saga that has ultimately seen the Gators’ repeat title shot slip out of their grasp. The extra year on the transcript was from Woodmont High School in 2008-09.
At the time, he was at Generations group home in Simpsonville, a home for abused boys. He did receive credit for completing some freshman work at WHS but he never physically attended classes at WHS.
Lawyers for Goose Creek and the school district argued the student-athlete’s eight semesters of athletic eligibility should have begun in 2010 when he first attended high school at Berkeley.
According to the SCSHL constitution, “enrollment is defined as actual matriculation (complete registration) and physical attendance in classes for one day.”
“It is very frustrating and certainly it makes you think ‘is this the kind of association you want to be a part of,’” Reedy said. “What I would like to be a part of is making changes in that association.”
State senators Larry Grooms and Paul Campbell have joined the fight with Goose Creek.
“There is going to be a bill pre-filed to revoke the charter of the South Carolina High School League,” Grooms said.
The ultimate goal, though, is to shake the SCHSL to its senses and encourage a more fair disciplinary system. The one-size-fits-all style of punishment often is more than is required.
“I would hope it wouldn't go that far (revoking the SCHSL’s charter),” Grooms said. “I would hope the league would institute laws that would allow due process and fair hearings for a team like Goose Creek that's done nothing wrong to play for a state title.”
Campbell, a Goose Creek resident, echoed Grooms’ comments.
“They made a huge mistake and it's really about fairness,” Campbell said. “This whole system attacks the kids that we're trying too help. High school sports are about winning but it's also about protecting the people involved in the sports. This action attacks the coaches that are trying to do their job. It attacks the administrators that are trying to do their job. The South Carolina High School League is going against the coaches, administrators and the kids.”
Huskey remains hopeful everything can be cleaned up down the road so future SCHSL's punishments at least fit the crime.
"This high school league is set up to be run by the people," he said. "We feel like it has lost its way and is being run by a certain group, and I'm part of that group. I feel like the people need to be represented. All 52 schools in Class AAAA, principals and athletic directors have a voice and need to have their voice heard in March when we have our conference in Charleston.”
“Changes have to be made,” Reedy said. “I don’t know that what they did to us helped anybody at all.”