PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — An administrative error has led to Peoria High School forfeiting all its football victories this year.
That’s the message from the Peoria Public Schools which hastily called a press conference Thursday morning at their administrative building to “get in front of this.”
Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said the program will be on probation next year but that the individual stats will not change. Nor would other sports within the school be affected.
But the Illinois High School Association said the entire school was on probation. In an emailed response to several questions, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said other sports weren’t affected at this time but noted “the school is on IHSA probation as a whole, not just the football team.
“So IHSA by-law violations in other sports could carry more severe penalties due to the probation,” Anderson said.
Peoria High School Athletic Director Brien Dunphy said the issue was “legal guardianship” regarding the two students. He wouldn’t speak to any specifics but took full responsibility saying that making sure a student is eligible is part of the job of an athletic director.
The paperwork error came to light when one of the students transferred to another high school and that school asked the IHSA to determine the student’s eligibility for his new school, Anderson said.
Neither boy is eligible to play at Central or at any other school, Anderson said.
In no way, he said, did this reflect upon the coaches and players of the Central High teams.
In an emailed statement, Anderson said that he issued the decision on Nov. 15 that there was a single ineligible player. The district, however, said there were two.
Later, Anderson clarified: “two total, but one did not significantly impact the results of the varsity contests, so only the one ineligible player factored into the forfeiture decision.”
In general, Dunphy said, students must live within the boundaries set for each school and while all students were registered students, but in this case, according to the state, these students were never eligible due to those “guardianship” issues.
That could mean the students were staying with people who were technically within the district but not their legal guardianships. Neither Dunphy nor Desmoulin-Kherat would comment on the ages of the players or their grade level.
However, the athletics director did say the students’ level of play is what garnered attention from the Illinois High School Association. Had they been freshman, he said, the move by IHSA to declare them ineligible would not have affected the varsity squad.
Anderson said say it was “disappointing” to render his decision but necessary.
“My experiences with the Peoria High School administration and athletic department have always been positive, and I believe they have taken this matter very seriously and are taking steps to ensure that a similar situation does not unfold again in the future. We will support them in those efforts in any way that we can moving forward,” he said.
The move will mean those schools who lost to Central will now have a win recorded on their season stats. Individual stats for students will not change and other sports at the school will also not be affected.
Also, Dunphy said Peoria High would not be barred from postseason play next fall.
Peoria High School went 7-3 under coach Tim Thornton. The victories being vacated were Sept. 2 against Danville, Sept. 8 against Urbana, Sept. 22 against Manual, Sept. 29 against Richwoods, Oct. 6 against Bloomington, Oct. 13 against Normal Community West, Oct. 20 against Peoria Notre Dame.
Because of its record, Peoria High advanced to the playoffs, losing in the first round to Joliet Catholic, 40-16.
When asked how a parent could avoid having such a situation with their child, Anderson said to be up front when they transfer.
“They should be up front with school administration that they played sports at their previous high school and intend to at the new high school (which should trigger an assessment from the Athletic Director on it an IHSA ruling is required),” he said. “Most schools have processes in place like this whenever a student transfers in, but mistakes and oversights do occur.”