Vaught's Views: Forfeits punish innocent players

September 08, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

As much as I deplore the way certain professional athletes act, it's easy to see why our athletics system almost forces athletes to become jaded.

Don't think so? Then try justifying to Danville football players how they likely are going to officially lose games to Garrard County and Lincoln County, games they dominated, because a paper was not filled out.

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association ruled Tuesday that Danville should forfeit both wins, along with track meets last spring, because Avery Moore had not been ruled eligible to participate after transferring from Lincoln County in January.

Moore was not a difference-maker in either game. He played only on the final kickoff against Garrard and the final five plays against Lincoln. No one is questioning his change of residence or charging that he was improperly recruited.


However, because no one at Danville had sent the proper transfer form to Lincoln for validation and then forwarded the same form to the KHSAA, Moore was never ruled eligible, and now the football players who won the season's first two games for Danville probably are going to be penalized.

Danville is going to appeal the ruling, and should. However, the chances of beating the KHSAA are not much better than going against the NCAA. Who cares if the innocent pay?

Did the NCAA worry that former UK coach Hal Mumme and recruiting coordinator Claude Bassett were the ones who broke rules when it put Kentucky on probation and cost innocent players a chance to play in a bowl game two years ago? No, no, no.

Does the KHSAA care that players like Kelvin Turner, Ronnie Hawkins, Jacob Moore, Masaak Tagarook and many, many others did nothing wrong this season when they thought they won two games? No, no, no.

The KHSAA could have recommended a reprimand for Harp, former principal Angela Johnson and other DHS officials who were responsible for Moore's paperwork being finalized. The KHSAA could have fined Danville $1,000 or more.

Instead, KHSAA commissioner Brigid DeVries went the forfeit route and then touted Danville's past honesty and cooperation for not fining the school. Trust me, the fine would have been a small penalty compared to taking away two football victories from a team of teen-age players.

There are so many ways this could have been avoided because there was no attempt to deceive anyone here. Moore moved to Danville in January and enrolled in school. He ran track and Danville is guilty of letting him participate without having a physical exam, a big no-no that jeopardized every member of the track team's insurance coverage, until late in the season.

Anonymous caller waited for football season

However, the anonymous caller who questioned Moore's eligibility after the Danville-Lincoln football game kept quiet in April, May, June, July and August. Apparently having the paperwork done and making sure Moore's eligibility was intact was never the intention here. Instead, someone waited for football season to share the news that transfer papers had not been filed.

Only a handful of people could have known whether transfer papers were, or were not, filed. Why any adult would deliberately want to hurt young athletes - and it doesn't matter if the athletes were at Danville, Boyle County, Lincoln County, Burgin or any other school - is beyond me. What message does that send to youngsters? Win at all costs? Do the right thing only if it helps your team?

If someone didn't like Harp or Danville, fine. If someone had a problem with Danville, fine. But to deliberately wait and try to penalize innocent high school athletes is unfair and, to me, immoral.

The guess here is that Danville and Lincoln won't play again in football. The schools may not play again in any sport unless forced to in tournament play or by regular-season district seedings. If that happens, the loser again will be young athletes, only this time it will be athletes at both schools.

Rules should be followed and enforced. However, common sense also has to be part of any penalty phase, and punishing Danville's football team for a clerical error that someone had kept quiet for months not only seems excessive, but it seems blatantly unfair.

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