Wave hoops faces forfeits due to ineligible player


A P.K. Yonge player puts a towel over his face after last season’s regional loss to Providence.

Doug finger/Staff photographer/File
Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.

P.K. Yonge's boys basketball team, ranked No. 9 in the latest Class 2A state rankings at 17-4, will likely have to forfeit all their victories this season after the school discovered Wednesday it used an ineligible player.

The school's administration, led by athletic director John Clifford, self-reported the infraction to the Florida High School Athletic Association on Wednesday afternoon. The FHSAA has not made a ruling as of yet, but it is expected the governing body of state high school athletics will cite the school.

As a result, the Blue Wave, who would have been the top seed in the upcoming District 5-2A tournament, will drop to the bottom seed (No. 9), and play at No. 8 seed Branford on Feb. 5 in a district play-in game. St. Francis, which sits as the current No. 2 seed, will vault to the top seed when the district tournament opens in Hawthorne on Monday, Feb. 7.

According to coach Carlos Villalobos, the player who transferred to P.K. Yonge this school year didn't report to school the first day of school. According to FHSAA Bylaw 9.3, adopted for this school year, a student "must not transfer schools after the first day of fall practice or the first day of school, or otherwise the student cannot participate at the new school for the remainder of the school year."

The original bylaw, in effect last school year, specified a 10-day period at the beginning of each semester. On Jan. 11, the FHSAA Representative Assembly adopted an addition to Bylaw 9.3.2, "Transfer Student Not Eligible Until the Following School Year." This newly added bylaw, which will go into effect next school year, "makes an exception for students who transfer schools in the first 20 days of the school year to be eligible, provided the student has not engaged in any athletic activities affiliated with either school prior to the transfer, has not been recruited, is not transferring in whole or in part for athletic reasons, is not transferring for disciplinary reasons and/or misconduct, and the former school principal verifies with the new school principal that all of the above criteria is met."

Clifford said he originally thought he was dealing with a non-situation until he investigated it further on Wednesday. He said he uncovered an administrative oversight from August of a transfer student.

"We knew the rule," Clifford said. "Sometimes in our checks and balances we have some kinks. It is unfortunate for the player and the players on this team. It certainly throws a wrench in the seeding of the district tournament. We are fortunate we caught it now and not at the tournament."

Villalobos was stunned when Clifford informed him what he discovered.

“When I first heard about it, I was shocked about the whole situation,” said Villalobos, who has been at P.K. Yonge for nine years, the last four as head basketball coach. “Obviously, this is a violation, and I need to try to be the leader of this ship. We have to try to get through this and come together as team. We can still reach our goals. We can still compete for the district championship and hopefully go a long way in the state playoffs.”

Seth Polansky, media specialist with the FHSAA, said P.K. Yonge, according to Policy 41, also faces a financial fine from the FHSAA of $2,500 per student times the number of infractions, which would be for 21 games. That totals $52,500.

"It is one thing if another school reported them, but if they self reported, the FHSAA is much more lenient with its financial fines," Polansky said. "The FHSAA has never totally waived the financial fine, however."

Ironically, last year Williston endured a similar circumstance. The Red Devils, who were having a superb regular season, had unknowingly used an ineligible player. As a result, 18 wins were forfeited, and Williston entered its district tournament as the bottom seed.

The Red Devils ended up playing in the state Final Four in Lakeland.

“Our guys kind of played with a chip on their shoulder the rest of the way,” said Williston coach Steve Faulkner. “It was funny, I never heard a ‘why me' from our players. It actually brought us closer together. We had an us-against-the-world mentality from that point on.”

The Blue Wave, who have won eight of their last nine games, could certainly lay claim to best boys team in Gainesville with victories against Buchholz and Gainesville. They play host to Eastside on Saturday at 8 p.m.

“On paper we are 0-21, but we know in our heart we have those victories on the court,” Villalobos said. “With our senior leadership, we will come together. They have been together since sixth grade. This has been a tough day for us, but the sun will come up tomorrow.”

Faulkner said the forfeited games will only motivate the Blue Wave going forward.

“I feel really bad for the kid,” Faulkner said. “It is certainly not his fault. I know this, I wouldn't want to play P.K. in the next month. They will probably be a much more focused team because of this.”

Contact Larry Savage at 352-374-5050 or larry.savage@gvillesun.com.

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