BY PHILIP M. BOWMAN
MONCKS CORNER — Goose Creek will play football tonight, but its ultimate fate still has not been determined.
Ninth Circuit Judge Roger Young ruled that the Gators can play tonight, and that the South Carolina High School League must meet again by 5 p.m. Monday in Columbia to reconsider whether Goose Creek used an ineligible player this season.
The Gators, who were disqualified from the playoffs earlier in the week by the High School League, will play host to Bluffton at 7:30 p.m. today.
The courtroom crowd erupted in celebration, cheering “Go Goose Creek Gators” and “Go Reedy” as they exited the Berkeley County Courthouse.
Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy left quickly, saying: “We are headed to get ready for Bluffton. We have seven hours before we play a game.”
Young said if, after Monday’s hearing, the High School League stands by its decision that Goose Creek should be banned from the playoffs, then the team would again face disqualification. So even if the Gators win tonight, they could face being ousted from the playoffs on Monday.
Goose Creek was supposed to host Bluffton tonight in the second round of the Division II-AAAA playoffs. But after the Gators were ruled ineligible, Bluffton was scheduled to play at home against Conway, a team Goose Creek beat 48-7 last week in the first round of the playoffs.
In this morning’s hearing, the biggest issue for the judge seemed to be when the so-called eligibility clock started for the student, who has not been identified.
The High School League argued that the student in question is in his fifth year of High School. Goose Creek argued he is in his fourth year.
The player, a foster child with special needs, has attended seven schools, including three high schools. He enrolled at Goose Creek this fall.
His transcripts were incomplete when he first enrolled at Goose Creek. A week later, a freshman year transcript for him was sent from Woodmont High School located near Greenville.
Goose Creek claimed that the student was incarcerated in Generations Home in Simpsonville and could not leave the premises.
Bob Warner, the South Carolina High School League’s attorney, argued that the student forfeited his right to participate in sports when he got in trouble. Warner called the home a jail even though it s advertised as haven for abused children.
But Young pointed out the High School League’s rule states a student must enroll and attend a high school to be considered a student of the school.
“There must be actual matriculation and attendance at least for a day,” the judge said.
Young said he wasn’t sure of the Executive Committee’s thinking or what they discussed because they violated the Freedom of Information Act by holding Wednesday’s hearing behind closed dooors.
A Berkeley county school official reviewed with the Generation Home and discovered the student was never off campus and never stepped foot on the Woodmont campus. A student has to be assigned to the school in the vicinity of their home, and Woodmont was the closest.
The Goose Creek officials made the discovery the day after the High School League’s Executive Committee affirmed Commissioner Jerome Singleton’s ruling that the player was ineligible.
“We talked to officials at Generations Home and Woodmont, and they confirmed he never stepped on their campus,” principal Jimmy Huskey said.
Huskey said the player will be on the sideline tonight.
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