The Washington football team found out this afternoon that its season will not end with tomorrow’s regular-season finale against Waynesburg. Thanks to the PIAA, the Little Prexies will be going to the WPIAL playoffs after all.
This afternoon, the PIAA overturned a previous WPIAL ruling that ordered Washington to forfeit five wins for the use of an ineligible player who is in his fifth year of high school. The ruling from the PIAA means that Washington has a 6-2 record and has qualified for the WPIAL playoffs that begin next Friday.
A PIAA appeals board made its ruling after holding a hearing via conference call today Washington school officials and WPIAL officials.
“The appeals board listened to a presentation by Washington High School and voted unanimously to rescind the forfeiture requirement imposed by District 7 [WPIAL],” said PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi.
At issue was Quorteze Levy, a senior receiver-defensive back at Washington who is in his fifth year of high school. PIAA and WPIAL rules state a student only gets four consecutive years (eight semesters) to participate in athletics. Levy (pictured) attended a school in Michigan as a ninth-grader, but did not participate in sports.
He transferred to Washington after his freshman year and repeated ninth grade because of academic problems. Washington athletic director Joe Nicolella said school officials didn’t realize Levy was in his fifth year of high school until a guidance counselor at the school caught it last week while looking at Levy’s transcript for possibly attending college.
Washington turned itself in to the WPIAL last Friday and the WPIAL had a board of control hearing with Levy and Washington school officials Monday. Washington asked for a hardship waiver that would grant Levy a fifth year of eligibility. Washington claimed Levy had family and social issues to deal with as a ninth-grader in Michigan. The WPIAL is allowed to grant a fifth year of eligibility for special circumstances.
The WPIAL granted Levy an extra year of eligibility in sports, but only starting with this past Monday after the hearing. The WPIAL said that rules do not allow the league to make the waiver retroactive to the start of the school year. Thus, when Levy played this season, he was ineligible. PIAA and WPIAL rules clearly state that any team that uses an ineligible player must forfeit any games where the ineligible player participated.
Washington then appealed its case to the PIAA and the PIAA voted to make the hardship waiver retroactive to the beginning of this semester. Thus, the team does not have to forfeit games.
“The reason being the [WPIAL] awarded the student two semesters of eligibility under severe and unusual hardship provision,” Lombardi said. “There is no language in our bylaws addressing partial semester eligibility. It’s a full semester. The waiver can be granted, but not for partial semesters.”
But the WPIAL claims the PIAA by-laws do not say anything about partial semester eligibility or whether eligibility can be granted retroactively. In essence, this case comes down to the WPIAL and PIAA reading a by-law differently because the by-law has a lot of gray areas and doesn't address a situation like this.
So the PIAA and WPIAL disagree and the PIAA doesn't uphold a WPIAL ruling. So, what else is new
"Candidly, our board was of the opinion that the request made [by Washington] was legitimate and merited consideration for additional semesters of eligibility," said WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley. "Our board, however, was of the opinion that the first seven weeks that [Levy] played and participated, he was ineligible. The board granted a waiver on the day it was asked for and not before.
"The by-law says you can grant eligibility for one or two semesters. It does not say you can grant eligibility retroactively. You can't take away the fact that he was ineligible the first seven games that he played."
The WPIAL actually made Washington forfeit six games. But the other forfeit was for an eligibility case involving Zach Blystone, who transferred from Charleroi to Washington for this school year. That forfeit [against Brownsville] still stands.
Washington will go into the playoffs as the No. 2 team from the Class AA Interstate Conference and will get a home game in the first round of the playoffs. The team finishes the regular season Friday against Waynesburg.