Playing by the rules, no matter what

Published 8:31 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2010

High school football playoff games will be going on all over Virginia on Friday and Saturday. Williamsburg’s Lafayette High was in the postseason until blowing the whistle on itself for using an ineligible player for part of this season.

The violation resulted in forfeiting two games and being ineligible for the postseason regardless of the resulting record, which went from 7-3 to 5-5.

The mistake that led to the forfeits? A Lafayette player didn’t submit the required information from a physical exam before the season, and the school didn’t notice the missing paperwork until going over information for winter sports seasons.

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Three years ago, Nansemond River’s football team had to forfeit two wins late in the season after the school realized a player’s high school athletic eligibility had run out because he had repeated a grade years ago in another state.

In both instances, the mistakes were completely honest — and unfortunate — ones. Both Lafayette and Nansemond River self-reported the violations to the Virginia High School League.

In both cases, the chances are pretty good no one ever would have learned about the violations.

For Nansemond River three years ago, it made a 2-6 team into an 0-8 team. In one sense, that might make it more difficult for a coach or administrator to forfeit wins. Why make things even more difficult for a struggling team?

Being way out of the playoff race made the odds even longer that anyone outside Nansemond River ever would’ve known about the error or cared enough to report it.

Instead, principal Thomas McLemore and head coach Tracey Parker were open, straightforward and honest about the mistake.

In a Daily Press article, Lafayette athletic director Dan Barner thought out loud about his school’s situation. “When I found out about the ineligible player, why couldn’t I have simply not said anything, and allowed the season to proceed?” he asked.

“The answer is, I probably could have,” he said.

“I could never look our players and their families in the face again if I had said nothing, knowing that an ineligible player had participated. This would have gone against everything I and my staff have tried to teach our student athletes over the last 14 years,” Barner said.

There’s a big, high-ranked college football team down south that wants to hurry up and get the rest of the season in, quite possibly winning the national championship along the way, before someone else discovers whether it knowingly or unknowingly broke the rules.

The difference here is as wide as the gap between “doing right when no one’s watching” and “Na na na na na, you can’t prove it!”