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The Florida High School Athletic Association has ruled Jefferson High used an academically ineligible football player, likely to result in the forfeiture of three wins — two in district play that could’ve changed the playoff race.
Jefferson initially asked the FHSAA to rule on the player’s eligibility in early November, a week before the Class 6A playoffs were set to begin. Because the FHSAA needed more time to review the case, the playoffs went ahead with Hillsborough and Armwood as the district’s representatives.
If the FHSAA had ruled the player ineligible before the playoffs, it is possible Jefferson would have been forced to forfeit district wins over King and Sickles and a nondistrict victory over Newsome on Sept. 7.
That would have improved Sickles’ district record to 5-1 and moved the Gryphons into a first-place tie with Hillsborough and Armwood. A tiebreaker would have been played Nov. 5 at Hillsborough High. Hillsborough lost in the region semifinals to Armwood and Armwood lost the next week at Gainesville in the region final.
Sickles settled for playing in a bowl game against Kathleen on Nov. 14. The Gryphons won 21-9.
Sickles coach Brian Turner could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to the FHSAA, the Jefferson player, whose named has not been publicly released, inappropriately received “grade forgiveness” for a Chemistry I honors course before completing requirements in the school’s science core. His cumulative GPA slipped below 2.0 as a result, making him ineligible.
The FHSAA sought clarification from the U.S. Department of Education before making its ruling, part of the reason for the delay.
Jefferson can appeal the ruling.
Neither Jefferson athletic director Bernard Cannon nor Hillsborough schools athletic director Lanness Robinson returned messages.