PREP FOOTBALL Ursuline likely to forfeit two games

A sophomore reserve played at least two games for the Irish despite being academically ineligible.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ursuline High School will look closely at future cases of academic eligibility with its student-athletes, especially those who transfer into the district, principal Patricia Fleming said.
"We're going to be more careful, especially in looking at grades of incoming students of whom we have no real knowledge," Fleming said.
Ursuline's football team, the defending Division IV state champion, will forfeit two games this season after using an ineligible player, Fleming said. The Ohio High School Athletic Association has not yet responded to the case.
The student-athlete in question transferred to Ursuline from another Mahoning Valley school for the current school year.
"It's very clear," Fleming said of the violation and penalty. "It's a very honest error that certainly wasn't meant to deceive the Ohio High School Athletic Association or its member schools we have played."
The error came after the student-athlete's physical education class was misinterpreted, leaving him one-half credit shy of the minimum five for the grading period.
"It's an unfortunate occurrence," Fleming said. "It's certainly not the fault of the players, even this individual player. It's an administrative error, an honest oversight."
Fleming said she first heard about the issue on Oct. 4 from an area athletic director who had received an anonymous telephone call.
Ursuline athletic director Jim Maughan then reviewed film to determine how many games the student-athlete, a sophomore reserve, participated in.
"We had an internal investigation," Fleming said. "We checked the records, the guidelines; we checked with John Dickerson [of the OHSAA] to clarify our reading of the rule book."
Fleming said the student-athlete played against Alliance on Sept. 7 and Cardinal Mooney on Sept. 29, with the Irish winning 54-0 and 39-6, respectively.
Letters were sent to OHSAA commissioner Clair Muscaro and the two schools involved.
Because both opponents are winless this season, Ursuline will not be penalized as much in the computer ratings, which determines playoff participants.
The Irish are third in the Associated Press state poll and 11th in the computer ratings this week.
"We are in no better or worse position," Fleming said of the playoff race. "We still have to win our last two games in order to be in the top eight [to qualify for the playoffs]."
Cleveland Benedictine athletic director Tom Erzen said Monday that he was informed of the eligibility issue at Ursuline and that the student-athlete participated in the Benedictine-Ursuline game Sept. 21, won 33-7 by the Irish.
But Fleming said Tuesday that most of Ursuline's young players, including the ineligible student-athlete, did not participate in that game.
The Bengals are 5-3 and battling for a playoff berth in Division III.
Muscaro and Dickerson were out of their OHSAA offices Tuesday, but assistant commissioner Deborah Moore said she was not yet aware of Ursuline's report.
Asked how long the OHSAA would take to act upon receiving a letter, Moore said, "It depends. If it's clear there was a violation and the penalty is forfeiture, it's done immediately, and the commissioner responds back to the member school."
The Irish, who have a 7-1 record, finish the regular season against Boardman and Uniontown, Pa.