Officials with the Florida High School Athletic Association said they hope to make a ruling on the eligibility of a Jefferson High football player before next week, allowing for the possibility that forfeits by the school could force a tiebreaker in Class 6A, District 8.
Peggy Jones, the FHSAA’s associate executive director for administrative services, said the organization has 10 business days to rule on Jefferson’s “request for eligibility ruling” form (also known as an EL-10), which came in Monday afternoon.
That means the FHSAA has until Nov. 9 to determine the player’s eligibility. But Jones and FHSAA spokesman Corey Sobers said the organization would prefer to reach a decision prior to that date.
“Given the ramifications of the district, we absolutely want to have it done as soon as possible,” Jones said Tuesday. “At the same time, in order to make an accurate ruling, we’ve got to have all the information first.”
The FHSAA requested more information from Jefferson on Tuesday before it makes a ruling. Jefferson administrators had asked the FHSAA to shed clarity on an academic issue.
“We’re just waiting on an answer,” said Bernard Cannon, Jefferson’s athletic director. “Right now, it’s just a matter of interpretation.”
Jefferson held the player out of last week’s district win over Leto.
As of Tuesday, Hillsborough (8-1, 5-1) and Armwood (6-3, 4-1) have earned 6A-8’s two playoff spots.
But if the FHSAA rules Jefferson used an ineligible player, it would result in the forfeiture of three of its wins – two in district play – and create a three-way tie for first place among Hillsborough, Armwood and Sickles.
Should Armwood and Sickles win their district finales Friday as expected, that would create a scenario where three teams have 5-1 records. Hillsborough, which has the best overall record, would host the tiebreaker Monday.
Sickles and Armwood would play for a quarter. The winner would advance to play Hillsborough for another quarter. If Hillsborough wins, they would retain the district title. If the Terriers lose, they have to face the loser of the earlier game in a battle for the final playoff spot.
“We’re used to adversity around here,” said Armwood coach Sean Callahan, whose team was stripped of the 2011 Class 6A state championship because of eligibility issues and lost another player this year for the same. “But it is what it is. We’ll be ready for whatever.”
Should an ineligibility ruling come after the date for a scheduled tiebreaker, it’s unclear what the FHSAA would do to resolve the issue.
“Hopefully we can get this done in time if a tiebreaker is needed,” Sobers said, “and avoid that scenario entirely.”