GW-Danville used ineligible player

DANVILLE — George Washington High School principal Joel DeBoe is sending a letter to the Virginia High School League that admits the Eagles’ football team used an ineligible player for part of the 2001 season.

“There’s a young man on the football team who did not pass the Literacy Passport Test until Oct. 8,” DeBoe said Friday morning. “This is something we were not aware of. It was a clerical error.”

The player, who wasn’t a starter for the Eagles this fall, had already participated in the team’s first five games before taking the exam. Students are required to pass the test before being eligible to participate in sports.

Athletic director Vern Barker discovered the problem when checking students’ winter sports eligibility.

“We found out he took it Oct. 8 and passed it,” DeBoe said. “What we have to do is write the situation up and send it to the Virginia High School League to get a ruling on it and see what needs to be done.

“We’ll have to wait and see what the Virginia High School League decides.”

If the VHSL decides to impose its maximum penalty, the Eagles (who went 10-2 this past season) would have to forfeit all of their victories and their Western Valley District championship.

One of those victories came against Gar-Field in the Division 6, Northwest Region semifinals. The Eagles won 42-35 in four overtimes.

“Whether they had an ineligible player or not doesn’t take away the fact that we still made six turnovers in that game,” Gar-Field coach Jim Poythress. If Gar-Field was awarded the win, it would improve to 9-2.

Another possibility is GW forfeiting its victories before Oct. 8 — against Magna Vista, L.C. Bird, Greensboro Page and Person County. That would leave the Eagles with a 6-6 record, but still include a district championship since GW didn’t start its district schedule until the Oct. 12 game at E.C. Glass.

VHSL executive director Ken Tilley said he wanted to read the letter before commenting on the situation.

“I would like to know the facts in circumstances before I issue any sort of statement,” Tilley said Friday afternoon.

Tilley said once he receives the letter, the process will “take several days” before a decision is made.

Barker said GW is admitting its own mistake and hasn’t received any threats of being reported.

“We haven’t been coerced by anyone. We’re doing it in good faith with the VHSL,” Barker said. “We’re trying to abide by their rules. We feel that should be taken into consideration and the fact the season is over and what’s happened, happened.”

The last time GW faced VHSL punishment over an ineligible player was in 1997, when the Eagles were forced to forfeit three games after it was learned the player lived outside the city and was not paying tuition to attend GW.

DeBoe said the players still have plenty to be proud of, no matter the outcome.

“No matter what happens, it won’t change what happened on the field,” DeBoe said. “They will always be district champions to us no matter how the situation turns out.”

Evan Jones is sports editor of the Danville Register & Bee.

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