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Two Hawks players lose last appeal, no decision on Nold

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Sun. September 30, 2012 | Joey Knight | Email

The trio of suspended Armwood football players exited its last appeal with the state's prep-sports governing board Sunday afternoon with two defeats and one no-decision.

The appeals of juniors Craig Carrington and Greg Newton, among five members of the Hawks' 2011 team suspended for allegedly falsifying residence information, were denied Sunday by the Florida High School Athletic Association's board of directors. Newton, however, could return for the playoffs if Armwood makes it that far.

Offensive lineman Gabe Nold, a Wharton transfer suspended earlier this year by Principal Michael Ippolito for residence information the principal deemed false, had his case referred back to Ippolito.

The 16-member board declined to make a ruling despite the presentation by Nold's attorney of "thousands" of cellphone records. Tampa-based lawyer Peter Hobson said the records clearly showed Nold was living with his dad in an apartment in Armwood's district following the separation of his parents.

Hobson said the principal has agreed to meet with Nold's father. When Ippolito, who attended Sunday's proceedings, will make a ruling is uncertain. Armwood already has played half its regular season; the suspended players have been able to practice but can't suit up on game nights.

"The win was, (Nold) did not get denied," Hobson said. "New rules apply. It's under re-evaluation right away and I think we're going to be in good shape."

The "new rules" refer to House Bill 1403, a controversial piece of prep-sports legislation that officially became law on July 1.

Among other things, it requires parents to be notified of any type of eligibility investigation or inquiry, and to be allowed to present evidence to the person determining eligibility. Such due process, Hobson has argued, had been denied to the Armwood familes before the new legislation was enacted.

The trio of players originally brought their cases to an FHSAA sectional appeals committee in August, only to be unanimously denied. Sunday's proceedings represented their final appeal outside of a legal challenge.

Armwood was forced to forfeit its 2011 state title and fined more than $12,000 -- among other penalties -- earlier this year following a six-month FHSAA probe in which five players were found to have falsified residence data to enroll at the school.

Nold and four other offseason transfers also were deemed ineligible by Ippolito for similar residence questions. Another lineman, Seffner Christian transfer Aaron Evans, won his appeal in August.

The Carrington family's next step is unclear, Hobson said. Newton, whose one-year suspension was imposed during the 2011 playoffs, regains his eligibility on Nov. 16 -- the first Friday of the football playoffs.
 

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