Danville athletes unfairly punished by KHSAA

September 12, 2004

Dear Editor:

The mission statement of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association, as stated in the preface of the KHSAA Handbook, reads as follows:

"The KHSAA shall establish, promote, and deliver the highest quality inter-scholastic athletic programs and activities in an efficient and progressive manner that emphasizes participation, safety, sportsmanship and integrity to enhance the educational experience of the student athlete."

It goes on to say that, "Ensuring a fair and equitable environment remains the primary focus for the Association."

Does the KHSAA practice what it preaches? Are they emphasizing "participation, sportsmanship and integrity"? Are they being "fair" in their decision to forfeit Danville's first two football games and strip the medals from Danville's track team? Were the student athletes even considered at all when Commissioner Brigid DeVries made her decision? I don't think so. And who is going to suffer the most because of this decision? The student athletes. The same student athletes who have done nothing wrong, but have been penalized as if they did. The same student athletes whose integrity has been challenged, over something they had no control over.


These athletes are not guilty of any wrongdoing. The only thing they are guilty of is wanting to play football for one of the most successful programs in the state. They are blameless. Why has the KHSAA chosen to hold these 14- to 18-year-old athletes accountable?

In the bylaws of the KHSAA it clearly states, "The Principal or Designated Representative is ultimately responsible in all matters in the school that concerns eligibility and inter-school contest." But the KHSAA is also responsible and should also hold themselves accountable. Every member school must send in a list of all student athletes to be checked by the association for eligibility. So why didn't they discover the oversight last spring when the list was sent in for the track team?

Although it firmly states in the handbook that a school will have to forfeit games when they use an ineligible player, the final decision is left to the discretion of the commissioner. Commissioner DeVries could have penalized the school in other ways, according to Bylaw 33, which includes fines, warnings, letters of reprimand and other less severe penalties, all of which do not directly affect the student athletes.

While playing an ineligible athlete is a serious offense, as stated by the commissioner, punishing the innocent is equally as serious, if not more so. With so many other penalties she could have imposed on Danville, why did she choose forfeiting, which affects the students more than anyone else? Is Danville being used as an example to others who may inadvertently break one of the rules of the association? Is the KHSAA trying to prove something, if so, what are they trying to prove?

There are a lot of people, sitting in a lot of plush, air-conditioned offices, making a lot of decisions about our youth. But evidently the KHSAA has forgotten that these same student athletes are the reason they have an office to go to in the first place.

Ann Hawkins


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