By SHAIN GILLET
Clipper Sports Editor
WOODS CROSS — A decision regarding ineligible athletes playing football for East High School this season has given the Wildcats and Braves a share of the Region 6 crown.
Woods Cross claims the No. 1 seed entering the 4A playoffs.
The Utah High School Activities Association released a letter to all media outlets earlier today that states, in part, that all games be forfeited by East High School “in which it used an ineligible player.
The letter also upheld a fine of $1,500 to the school but vacated other penalties, including suspension of the head football coach.
In short, all but one of East High’s wins this season have been vacated by the panel at UHSAA, giving the Leopards a 1-8 overall record and a 1-4 Region 6 record.
The ineligible players in question were not released in the decision. However, multiple news sources said that up to four players who played football for East High School this year were brought into question. Each of the four players were on the field sparingly throughout the season, but the fact that they played at all determined the penalty.
“There is no doubt that the forfeiture is a harsh penalty,” the decision read. “Nevertheless, the Association has repeatedly affirmed and enforced such a penalty for the use of ineligible players. Indeed, the Association recognizes that most, if not all, governing organizations of sports regularly impose forfeiture of games in which ineligible players participate.”
The decision letter also recognized that Kathy Butler, East High’s Athletic Director, was the most to blame in the situation.
“For her part, (Butler) explained that she had ‘misunderstood’ the rules and had failed to obtain or file the paperwork that is clearly required for these students,” the decision said. “This was not a ‘clerical error,’ in which a box that was wrongly checked or a name misspelled or even a document wrongly filed. It was a wholesale failure to ‘to determine that participants have met all eligibility requirements.’”
The decision letter by the panel gave victories to Woods Cross, Bountiful, Clearfield and Cyprus High Schools. Each lost to the Leopards during region play, and one or more of the questioned players participated in each game. The resulting forfeitures dramatically changed the outcome of the final region standings.
Woods Cross is now the Region 6 co-champion with Bountiful. Highland and Cyprus are the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in Region 6 heading into next Friday’s opening round of the 4A playoffs. Woods Cross will be the No. 1 seed and will face Westlake to open the playoffs, and Bountiful will host Skyline. Cyprus benefitted the most from the decision; that team could earn a playoff spot with a win over Mountain View Tuesday.
Multiple news sources have said East High plans to appeal the decision, which could be heard as early as this weekend.