Local News

Judge: Terry Sanford will play in the playoffs

Posted November 12, 2009 11:45 a.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2009 11:35 p.m. EST

— Cumberland County Judge Jack Thompson issued a temporary injunction Thursday allowing Terry Sanford High School to play in this weekend's football playoff game.

Thompson met with attorneys representing some players and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Thursday afternoon.

"We are very disappointed in the judge's decision in this matter, but we are planning to be in court on Monday morning. With the case pending, it is appropriate that we have no further comment at this time," NCHSAA Executive Director Charlie Adams said Thursday.

The NCHSAA decided Monday that Terry Sanford must forfeit its nine regular-season wins after the school self-reported the use of an ineligible player. The school was then shut out from Friday's 4-A state playoff game against Pine Forest High School.

Superintendent Frank Till Jr. said the school found that one football player had not met the minimum requirements in the previous semester.

NCHSAA scholastic requirements state a student must have passed a “minimum load of work during the preceding semester to be eligible at any time during the present semester.”

If a student is not academically eligible at the beginning of the semester, he is not eligible at any time during the semester, according to the NCHSAA.

The only exception is a student who receives an incomplete, which causes him to fail to meet the scholastic requirements. The student’s eligibility would be restored if the course is completed.

An attorney for the players argued on Thursday that the NCHSAA did not tell them why the team can't play in the playoffs.

“We wanted to make sure that due diligence had been served with these guys…and that they had the opportunity they’d worked so hard for,” said Jim Arp, Terry Sanford Booster Club president.

Thompson planned another meeting with attorneys for both sides at 10 a.m. Monday.

It is unclear how prepared the team will be for the game against Pine Forest. NCHSAA rules state that once a team’s season is over, they cannot practice.

“My understanding was that they have not (been practicing), but that's something we'd have to examine after all this is done. Technically their season would have been over, but I don't think we'll deal with that until this other has transpired,” said Rick Strunk, associate executive director of NCHSAA.

The player accused of being ineligible will be allowed to play in the game, officials said.

Terry Sanford head football coach Wayne Inman said the game will be played at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Jordan Vann, a senior on the team, said the team is blessed to have opportunity to play.

"We're just excited to play the game. That's the bottom line," Pine Forest Principal Cindy McCormic said. "Our coaches and players have been practicing as hard as always and have a great attitude. They've been great sports about it."

If Terry Sanford wins the game and the judge rules in favor of the NCHSAA, Pine Forest will not move on, said Que Tucker, NCHSAA deputy executive director. The team scheduled to play Terry Sanford in the next round would receive a bye.

Terry Sanford principal replaced in midst of transcript probe

The judge’s decision came the same day the Fayetteville school’s embattled principal was removed from her position.

Diane Antolak, who was principal since 2006, was suspended with pay last week and is being investigated for possibly tampering with the transcripts of student athletes. She was still an employee of the school system Thursday, spokeswoman Wanda McPhaul said.

Mindy Vickers, the principal of Cross Creek Early College High School, was named to replace Antolak at Terry Sanford.

NCHSAA relies on system of self-reporting

Statewide, 105 violations have been reported to the NCHSAA this school year, NCHSAA officials said. Twenty-five percent of those violations reported have led to a team forfeiting a game or match.

The NCHSAA relies on a system of self-reporting. If schools don't turn themselves in, officials say, someone else will.

"Most of the time the schools do the right thing and police themselves and turn themselves in," said Que Tucker, NCHSAA deputy executive director.

Tucker has seen several scandals rock schools, including one at West Charlotte where at least two football players falsified their home address.

"It tears up a community. It tears up a school," Tucker said.

Of the violations reported this year, 27 involved ineligible players. A school with an ineligible player could face a $500 fine. If the school reports the violation themselves, the fine can be cut in half.