COLUMBIA — For the second time in two days, the High School League ruled that the Goose Creek Gators — the No. 1-ranked football team in the state — are done for the year.
But officials from Goose Creek High School and the Berkeley County School District indicated the fight to remain in the Division II-AAAA football playoffs might not be over.
“We’re looking at our options,” said coach Chuck Reedy late Wednesday.
The only option at this point is the court process. It’s an avenue the school and district hinted that they are considering.
The High School League’s Executive Committee voted 9-2 Wednesday night to uphold Goose Creek’s ban from the playoffs for allowing an ineligible player to participate in games.
Goose Creek requested a second vote, asking the committee to consider a hardship case for the student involved. That vote went 10-1 against the team. The name of the player
involved was not disclosed.
The hearing came after High School League Commissioner Jerome Singleton’s ruling Tuesday that Goose Creek used an ineligible player and therefore was disqualified for the playoffs. He ruled the school must forfeit the 10 games the player dressed for or participated in.
Goose Creek, the defending Division II-AAAA state champion, went 12-0 during the season, including a convincing victory last week over Conway in the first round of the playoffs.
The Gators were scheduled to host Bluffton Friday, but now Conway will travel to Bluffton for the second-round game.
Reedy said he doesn’t know what he will tell his players.
“They have done everything right and don’t deserve to be punished,” he said. “I don’t know what I will say. Words won’t make it any better. Nothing I will tell them will make it better.”
The meeting was scheduled to be open to the public, but Goose Creek requested a closed session and reporters and spectators were forced to leave the room.
Jay Bender, an attorney for the S.C. Press Association, said the closed session violated the Freedom of Information Act.
“There was a lawsuit a number of years ago that determined the High School League was a public body,” he said. “The closed hearing is in violation of the law. I don’t understand it. It’s a body that takes public money and holds private meetings. If they want to operate like that, they should become a private club.”
Bender said the school was being punished, not the ineligible student. “The player doesn’t have to be identified publicly,” he said.
Rodney Thompson, the Berkeley County School District superintendent, said he was proud of Reedy and his players.
“Of course, we’re obviously disappointed with the decision and the impact it’s going to have on the Goose Creek players and the Goose Creek community,” he said. “We’re going to move forward from this day on and we’re going to take care of our students. That’s our main concern.”
Goose Creek was hoping for a fate similar to Summerville’s in 2005. The Green Wave knowingly used an ineligible player on the junior varsity football team. The Executive Committee upheld Singleton’s ruling but granted Summerville mercy and let the Green Wave varsity team back into the playoffs.
In the appeal, Reedy and Goose Creek Principal Jimmy Huskey said they notified the league immediately upon learning that a student on the team might be ineligible. They said the school and district exercised the right to appeal based on extraordinary conditions that there was no ill intent and no competitive advantage was gained by the team, players, coaches, staff or administration.
The ineligible player was a transfer student, and the updated student transcript record in question was received after the student was enrolled at the school.
The original transcript used at the beginning of the season was incomplete, and when the student registered for winter sports, an updated transcript showed that he already had played four seasons of football, making him ineligible.
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.