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  • /Whitmer penalized by OHSAA; Findlay wins 2011 TRAC football and hoops titles

Whitmer penalized by OHSAA; Findlay wins 2011 TRAC football and hoops titles

The Ohio High School Athletic Association wrapped up its 17-month investigation into the use of an alleged ineligible player by Toledo Whitmer High School on Thursday.
A byproduct of that investigation will be a pair of Three Rivers Athletic Conference championships for Findlay High School.
The lengthy OHSAA investigation determined that former Whitmer star football and basketball player LeRoy Alexander, now a defensive back at the University of Nebraska, was ineligible to participate in athletics during the 2011-12 school year.
The school kept Alexander from participating in athletics in the spring of 2011 when the OHSAA first ruled him ineligible. But a Lucas County Common Pleas Court judge issued an injunction ordering the school to reinstate him in August 2011. Whitmer complied with the court order and allowed Alexander to participate in spite of the OHSAA spring 2011 ruling.
“We believe he was not living where he claimed he was living and he was ineligible,” said OHSAA Commissioner Daniel Ross, who attended a Thursday press conference at Whitmer with Washington Local Schools Superintendent Patrick Hickey.
Hickey said he still feels the school did nothing wrong. He asserts that Alexander was living in the Whitmer district while he attended school there, and said the school was compelled to comply with the court order.
“We feel that LeRoy was living in the district, but that’s all in the past. And where we sit today is that Dr. Ross and the OHSAA believe he was ineligible and he participated and the that the punishment is forfeiture. We believe that penalty shouldn’t occur, but it is what it is,” Hickey said.
The penalties imposed by the OHSAA on Whitmer, one of Findlay’s rivals in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, are severe.
Whitmer forfeits all wins during the 2011 football season and 2011-12 basketball season.
The Panthers posted a 13-1 record during the 2011 football season and reached the Division I state semifinals. They handed Findlay its only loss of the regular season when the Panthers scored a 49-23 win over the Trojans in Week 7.
The forfeits give Findlay High School a perfect 10-0 mark in the record book for the 2011 season and make the Trojans 2011 TRAC football champion, according to TRAC Commissioner Ken Myers.
Whitmer also won the 2011-12 TRAC boys basketball championship with a 12-2 league record on its way to a Division I state runner-up finish. After Whitmer’s forfeits, Findlay, Toledo Central Catholic and Toledo St. John’s share the TRAC boys basketball title, as each now finishes 12-2. The Trojans were swept by the Panthers in last year’s two-game season series.
The forfeits also ensure that Findlay finishes as the 2011 TRAC boys all-sports champion.
Because of the ruling, Whitmer will also vacate its state semifinal appearance in football and its state runner-up showing in basketball. It was noted that individual players will get to keep their state tournament medals.
“These forfeits are extremely painful. All those kids who aren’t involved in this are being punished and it’s a very harsh life lesson. This agreement was not reached easily but we feel this is in our best interest to move forward,” Hickey said.
“Biggest thing today is that I hope the cloud of suspicion has been lifted off this district. The rumor and innuendo has been so reckless and damaging.”
The OHSAA also found Whitmer showed a lack of diligence when checking on transfer students’ residency and making sure all of the district’s 130 coaches had the proper certification before they were allowed to coach.
In addition to the forfeitures, the school district will pay the OHSAA $50,000 to defray the costs of the investigation. According to Ross, the investigation of Whitmer cost nearly $100,000.
Hickey asserted the $50,000 payment is not a fine.
“A fine indicated wrongdoing, there was no wrongdoing. It was lack of full due diligence that we have corrected,” said Hickey, whose school handles 1,000 transfers in and out of the district per year.
“Let me be clear. Washington Local Schools is an ethical and honest organization. The OHSAA agrees that the school district is an honest organization and that the Washington Local Schools were not complicit and didn’t turn a blind eye toward any wrongdoing,” Hickey said.
Whitmer’s payout to the OHSAA will come from the school district’s general fund. Hickey said the school decided it was best to end the dispute with the OHSAA now rather than pay legal fees while fighting the ruling.
The 2-year-old Three Rivers Athletic Conference has dealt with the forfeiture issue once before. During the 2011 boys soccer season, Toledo St. John’s was forced to forfeit five wins because it used an ineligible player, which gave Toledo St. Francis the league championship.