The Utah High School Activities Association unleashed a firestorm of protest over the decision to allow Skyridge’scontinued participation in the 6A football state tournament after an ineligible player violation was self-reported by the school.
The UHSAA released the following statement to help explain the process of arriving at the decision early Thursday evening.
The Utah High School Association has received criticism and complaints concerning the Executive Committee’s adjudication of Skyridge’s use of an ineligible player in the prior two games of the State Tournament. The Association believes that much of the confusion comes from a change made in the rules in 2020.
In communications to the Association, it has been suggested that the Association has not followed its own rules and that had it done so, Skyridge would have had its two wins, against Farmington and Pleasant Grove, vacated. The result would be that Skyridge would not play in the semi-final game. These same communications refer to the Association’s rulings in prior cases involving Timpview High School, East High School, and Lone Peak High School. Those decisions were made following a different rule.
Prior to 2020 the Association’s rule regarding forfeitures was controlled by this rule:
SECTION 6: Ineligible Player/Participant Contests in which an ineligible participant competes shall result in forfeiture of the contest or disqualification from the competition in which the ineligible participant competed.
In each of the cases cited above, the affected schools objected to the “harsh” punishment, citing to the fact that the forfeitures wrongly harmed those players who had followed the rules, competed fairly, and had no possibility of preventing the infraction. To them, it appeared that those in the school administration and even the coaches were the ones who should be punished and not the players.
The Association took seriously those objections and the argument. It sent the question of amending the rules to its Constitution and By-laws Committee. That Committee drafted proposed new rules that did not require forfeiture for the infraction of playing an ineligible player. The Committee submitted that draft to the Executive Committee that approved it and recommend the new rules to the Board of Trustees. That Board approved the rules, but before it could become effective, it was presented to the Association’s member (schools) who overwhelmingly approved it. The rules then became part of the By-laws
The new rules:
SECTION 7: Ineligible Player/Participant
A. Contests in which an ineligible player/participant competes shall result in the head coach being suspended for all consecutive sport activities (contests, practice, meetings, etc.) and at all team levels for the number of contests in which the ineligible player/participant competed. Suspension will carry over to the next school year where applicable. Additional sanctions may be applied to the coaching staff and/or the school by the Region Board of Managers, the Executive Committee or the Board of Trustees.
B. The player/participant remains ineligible until the student is deemed eligible by the UHSAA office.
SECTION 8: Penalties
A. Upon the determination that there has been a violation of the Association’s Constitution, a By-Law, a rule or policy, the Association may impose such penalties or fashion such relief as may be proper. Without limiting the Association’s ability to enforce its rules, these are among the actions the Association may consider:
5. Forfeit: The forfeiture of an interscholastic athletic contest, title or championship.
6. Vacating a Win: The effect of vacating a win is to nullify the result of a contest for the offending school or individual in contests won. Any team records achieved are to be vacated. Individual records achieved by an ineligible individual are also vacated. Award(s) won, including a championship/ place, are vacated for offending teams and, in applicable cases, team points reconfigured. Any award, including a championship/place won by an ineligible individual is vacated. The vacation of a contest, championship/place or award shall only be applied when a forfeit cannot practically be applied, such as in a case where an offending team or individual has completed at least the second round of tournament and an opponent could not be advanced without additional competition.
Because Skyridge had completed at least the second round of tournament and an opponent could not be advanced without additional competition, the Executive Committee declined to declare a forfeit. Some have argued that Pleasant Grove High School could easily have advanced, but that argument overlooks Farmington High School who, with the forfeit of Skyridge in its game, would have as much claim to the semifinals as would Pleasant Grove.