It was 11 a.m. Sunday and Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy sounded as if he had already had a long day.
He was breaking down film of this week’s Division II-AAAA playoff opponent Northwestern while preparing for today’s appeal in front of the High School League’s executive committee. Goose Creek officials will appear before the committee at 2 p.m. at the High School League offices in Columbia.
The Gators must win their appeal to remain in the playoffs.
“Since last Monday, it’s been a roller- coaster ride of highs and lows,” Reedy said. “It’s been an emotional week and emotions burn a lot of energy. It’s taken its toll on everybody.”
Last week, High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton ruled the Gators used an ineligible player and banned the Gators from the playoffs. The following day, the executive committee upheld his decision in a closed session that violated the Freedom of Information Act.
The Gators took their case to court on Friday, and Circuit Judge Roger Young granted a temporary restraining order that allowed the school to play Friday night’s game against Bluffton, a 35-25 Gators victory. Young also ruled the executive committee must convene in open session today to reconsider the eligibility requirements based on its rules. Any decision must be explained in writing.
The Goose Creek football player declared ineligible by the High School League is a foster child who has special needs. He was homeless at times and had been in and out of facilities. He attended six schools before finally ending up at Goose Creek.
School officials reported the violation when a transcript showed he had been credited with high school classes four years ago at Woodmont High School, located near Greenville.
The day after the executive committee upheld Singleton’s decision, Goose Creek officials discovered the student wasn’t at Woodmont High his freshman year in 2008. He was actually incarcerated at a facility called Generations Home in Simpsonville, and was not allowed to leave the premises. Goose Creek officials say he never stepped foot on the Woodmont campus. The classes credited to Woodmont were actually taken at the Generations Home.
“I think Monday’s hearing will boil down to whether the year this young man spent in a group home for children with behavioral issues should be counted toward his eligibility limitation,” said Harrell, whose firm is handling the case for free. “Under the league’s constitution, a student is eligible to participate for four years from the time he first enrolled in the ninth grade in a member school. However, ‘enrollment’ is defined as ‘actual matriculation (complete registration) and physical attendance in classes for one day’. Based on what we’ve learned, this young man never physically attended a league member high school during the year in question because he was in a home-bound program.
“I expect that we’ll get a fair hearing,” Harrell said. “Most of the committee members are educators who obviously have a passion for kids. In fairness to the league commissioner and the full committee, their decisions last week were based on the information they had in front of them. We now know there was more to the story than what they knew at that time.”
The school could go back to court again if its appeal is rejected.
“Obviously, we would have to evaluate that with our attorneys,” Reedy said. “But there comes a point when you say you’ve done everything you could and exhausted every option. We’re seeking justice.”
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil