- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
On Sept. 7, the 2013 Southern Maryland Athletic Conference football regular season opens. As it turned out, it took until late in the summer of 2013 to crown the 2012 conference champion.
When the 2012 season ostensibly reached its conclusion, the Huntingtown Hurricanes and McDonough Rams tied for the conference title with matching 7-1 records. The teams did not play each other, so the result was a shared championship.
However, an investigation that was initiated in April revealed that the Hurricanes, who eventually won the 3A South Region and advanced to the 3A state championship game, had used an ineligible player and must forfeit all of the games the player competed in. The end result is five wins turned to losses, and Patuxent, which would improve to 7-1 with a reversed outcome against Huntingtown, officially the 2012 SMAC champion, pending the appeals process that is expected to be conducted in the next week. Patuxent defeated McDonough head to head.
“We got a call back before the end of the school year with accusations of some possible illegal students in the school,” Calvert County Supervisor of Athletics Kevin Hook said in a phone interview Monday. “I contacted our student service department. They did an investigation and it turned up that, yes indeed, both students were in Huntingtown High School illegally, to be quite honest, at no fault of the school. One of them was a JV player and one was a varsity player.”
The varsity player was actually held out of a number of games early in the 2012 season pending the proper paperwork, according to Hook. The player’s mother eventually turned in the paperwork, all appeared legal and the player proceeded to play for Huntingtown for the rest of the season and postseason.
“He plays, they go all the way to states. Then I get a call in April telling me, ‘Hey, I don’t think this kid is legal,’” Hook said.
The subsequent investigation revealed the player’s mother lived in Prince George’s County, where two siblings attended school and had been registered for two years.
“We basically questioned the mother,” Hook said. “The mother doesn’t deny it, even though she’s turned in all the right paperwork, had a lease and everything, claiming to be living in Calvert County. We followed her up there, watched her walk into her house, watched her take the other kids in. We had all the evidence saying, ‘You don’t live in Calvert County, and if you don’t live in Calvert County, your kids can’t go to school in Calvert County.”
At that point, a letter was sent to the mother, instructing her that her son needed to be withdrawn immediately from Huntingtown and register at whatever school he was supposed to attend. And that was also the point where Hook decided the Hurricanes football team would need to forfeit all of the wins they accumulated with the player in the lineup per Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association rules.
“Officially it is five regular-season football games and three postseason football games,” Hook said.
The forfeitures would hand the SMAC championship to Patuxent, though Hook did not think the program’s regional title or state final appearance would be stricken from the record book.
“School was out when we finally made the decision,” Hook said, “so I doubt that [MPSSAA Executive Director Ned Sparks] is going to go back and erase anything in the record books.”
The process is not over, as Huntingtown and the player in question have the right, and intention, to appeal.
“Huntingtown High School has the right to appeal the decision that I had to make, which is one of the decisions you hate making as a supervisor because it’s your own school,” Hook said. “They have the right to appeal, and I think they already turned the appeal in. I know [Huntingtown Principal Rick] Weber and [Huntingtown Athletic Director Vashawne] Gross told me they were turning in an appeal. They’re going to appeal it to the state level.”
When reached by phone, Gross referred all inquiries to Hook, though he did indicate that Huntingtown had filed an appeal.
Hook also noted the student has the right to appeal, and if not overturned, the student would be suspended from participating in athletics in the state of Maryland for a 60-school-day period from the time of the report. In this case, the suspension would essentially be the first 60 days of the school year.
A committee will convene to hear the evidence Hook based his decision on, and then the appeals. Hook indicated he expected a quick process, perhaps concluding by the end of the week.
Pending the appeals, the varsity player in question is, in fact, currently at Huntingtown and practicing with the team, according to Hook.
“So, if the committee decides that he shouldn’t have been suspended, he will at least have been able to do the heat acclimatization and the concussion testing and all that,” he said. “If the committee comes back and says it’s not his fault, the mother has done something wrong, at least now he’s been able to practice. He’s ready to be able to participate when the time comes.”