The penalty for forfeiture is found in Section 6 (A)(6) were it says, in relevant part, “In
cases of the use of an ineligible player, the non-complying school
forfeit any contest, teamtitle or team championship obtained when such an ineligible player competed as part of the
team” (emphasis added)
From these provisions, we find that we have the discretion to impose or decline to imposeforfeiture in total or in part as we fashion proper relief. We believe that forfeiture is theappropriate sanction but for the rare circumstance where the forfeiture is unduly harsh and wouldimpose not merely a sanction or penalty but an unreasonably burdensome hardship. We believethat in this case, the forfeiture of every contest and the resulting loss of eligibility to compete inthe State Football Tournament for the eligible players is too harsh a result on the specific factsbefore us.Consequently, East shall be required to forfeit six of seven contests in which an ineligibleplayer participated, and it shall forfeit those that will result in East being the fourth and last seedfor the post season. We realize that in so doing, we are seeding it ahead of Cyprus, a team withno violations. We do so, in part, because at the end of the season, East had been in first place,with a three team tie for second. Cyprus was a distant fifth. In the exercise of our discretion, weare keeping the first four teams in the Region in the playoffs. Additionally, when the Regionconsidered forfeitures, which would have placed Cyprus in the playoffs, Cyprus voted againstthose forfeitures
. In so doing, Cyprus openly consented to East’s participation
in the playoffsdespite playing ineligible players.1We are not unaware that in placing East as a fourth seed, it will be playing teams thatotherwise would have faced lower seeds. Accordingly, we will require East to play every postseason game on the road and suspend its head football coach for the first three games of theplayoffs. We also require East to Forfeit its Region Championship title.
We accept in full the findings of the EC Hearing Panel regarding East’s egregious
violations of the rules. East willfully turned a blind eye to these problems and evidenced a totallack of institutional control. In so doing, East put the Association in the untenable position of attempting to salvage the eligibility of its students, notwithstanding that their eligibility wasthreatened not by any act of
the Association, but rather by East’s own failures and violations
.Whatever the Association did with the problem would bring a firestorm of criticism.Based on the record before this BOT Panel, we unanimously issue the following sanctions andpenalties:1.
East shall be required to forfeit six of seven contests, and to forfeit those that willplace it in the fourth and last post season position;
1 In an open meeting at the Association, after we had issued an outline of our decision, Cyprus expresseddisagreement. It claimed that we had no basis on which to put East in the fourth playoff position and that that ourdecision seemed to be an arbitrary choice of East over Cyprus. Cyprus descr
ibed it as the writing of a “magic pen.”
As we have explained here, our decision, while disappointing to Cyprus, was based, in part on
-fieldrecord and its consent in the Region meeting to East participating in the State Tournament despite its admittedviolations.
Cyprus had an opportunity to object to East’s continued participation and chose not to do so
, therebywaiving any objection to that participation.