Jefferson High has asked the Florida High School Athletic Association to look into the academic eligibility of one its players, potentially causing upheaval in the Class 6A, District 8 playoff race.
Hillsborough County schools athletic director Lanness Robinson confirmed Saturday that Jefferson “was checking into something that was reported to them.”
If the FHSAA rules Jefferson used an ineligible player, it would result in the forfeiture of three of the Dragons’ wins – two in district play – and create a three-way first-place tie between Armwood, Hillsborough and Sickles.
If an ineligible student is inadvertently permitted to participate in an interscholastic athletic contest, forfeiture of the game and honors shall be automatic and mandatory if the coach or school administrator knew or should have known that such use would be a violation of the association’s rules and regulations,” according to FHSAA bylaws.
The bylaws also say if Jefferson intentionally used an ineligible player, “forfeiture of the game and honors shall be automatic and mandatory.” Jefferson could also face a fine, reprimand and probation.
Jefferson’s principal could appeal the ruling if the player is found to be ineligible.
Such a ruling would create tumult in the race for 6A-8’s two playoff spots, which were thought to have been settled.
Jefferson would have to forfeit wins over King and Sickles (and a non-district win over Newsome on Sept. 7), improving Sickles’ district record to 4-1 and potentially setting up the Gryphons to move into a first-place tie with Hillsborough and Armwood.
Hillsborough completed its 6A-8 schedule with a 5-1 record and seemed to have clinched the district title with its win over King on Friday. Armwood, which is also 4-1 in 6A-8, had seemingly secured the district’s second playoff spot with one district game left against King next week.
Sickles, currently in third place with a 3-2 record, will play its final district game against winless Leto next week.
But if Jefferson forfeits its district victories and Armwood and Sickles win their district finales as expected, that creates a scenario where three teams would have 5-1 records. Hillsborough – by virtue of having the best overall record at 8-1 – would host the tiebreaker Nov. 5.
Sickles and Armwood would play for a quarter. If the score is still tied, each team would have a set of downs to score from the 10-yard line. The winner would advance to play Hillsborough under the same set of circumstances.
If Hillsborough wins, then it will be the district champion and the loser will be the runnerup. But if the Terriers lose, they have to face the loser of the earlier Sickles-Armwood game in a battle for the final playoff spot.
“As it stands now, we’re still the district champ and we’ll enjoy that,” Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said. “But this is frustrating because we won the championship fair and square on the field in October. If need be, we’ll try to win it again.”