TUPPERS PLAINS — The passionate statements of players, coaches, parents and fans were heard by the Eastern Local Board of Education on Wednesday evening during a special meeting regarding the recent Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) decision regarding the football team.
Board members and Superintendent Scot Gheen also told the approximately 75 people in attendance of the possible outcomes the district could face as a result of a possible appeal.
Possible “worst case scenarios” stated by the board were forfeiture of all games; forfeiture of team and individual records and awards; sanctions or ban on postseason play; fines; court costs; and attorney fees.
The best case scenario given by the board was the possibility of a fine.
After entering into executive session for the second time, the board returned to the public meeting with President Adam Will making a motion to pursue an appeal with legal counsel, understanding all possible outcomes.
A 4-0 vote by the board approved the appeal.
Following a lengthy executive session to begin the meeting, the board held 30 minutes of public participation allowing for anyone who would like to ask questions in regard to the situation.
Gheen spoke first, stating that he appreciated everyone coming out to show their support. He added that everyone deserved to know what is going on.
Gheen emphasized that no child or student-athlete is at fault in this situation.
While there was custody paperwork completed in the State of Florida, the same paperwork was not sufficient in Ohio according to Gheen. Since that time, a custody order has been put in place by Meigs County Juvenile Judge Scott Powell.
Will stated that the administration made every effort to correct that matter. He added that the OHSAA has overruled the order by Powell regarding custody.
While members of the board noted that the chances of winning an appeal may not be good, they agreed to keep fighting.
Eastern football coach Dave Tennant spoke of telling his team about the decision by the OHSAA.
“It was my decision to wait until Monday (when the final outcome was known),” said Tennant. He added that had the team been told prior to the outcome of the OHSAA appeal they would likely have been in no shape to play the game last Friday.
“I have never heard of forfeits for this,” he added. Tennant described his reaction as blown away and said he is still in awe over the decision.
Tennant added that his team did nothing wrong and has been punished severely. He said that southeast Ohio is treated differently than other areas of the state.
The second-year head coach stated he took a short video shortly after telling his players the news, sending it to those involved to show how something like this impacts a team.
One senior football player stated that he, and others, have put their “heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into this and were not having their last chance taken away without a fight.”
A parent of a student involved spoke about the student moving here to get away from drugs and bad influences in the previous area, going on to state that the student moved here to live in the country and have a better way of life and should not be penalized for that.
Some in attendance asked if the board was willing to fight for the kids.
“We haven’t given up,” replied Board member Floyd Ridenour.
One mother stated that she and others had called OHSAA about the matter and had been treated rudely. She suggested that the commissioner involved should see the school and see the boys impacted by the decision before penalizing them.
Will encouraged everyone to reach out to OHSAA on the matter. He added that email seemed to be the best form of contact.
Another parent referenced previous OHSAA sanctions against Harvest Prep, and the long process it took for a decision to be reached. She noted that this decision seemed to come much quicker that some in the past from the OHSAA.
Another in attendance went on to state that she had never heard of anyone being able to override Ohio Revised Code.
The spirit of rules 4-6-3 and 4-7-2 which deal with the matter at hand, according to Gheen, are in place to insure that no one moves to gain a competitive advantage.
“None of this has been done to gain a competitive advantage,” Gheen stated.
In an email conversation between The Daily Sentinel and Tim Stried of the OHSAA, the question was asked if former superintendent and current Southeast Ohio District Athletic Board treasurer Rick Edwards was involved in the matter in any way. Stried stated that, “I can confirm that Rick Edwards was not involved in any way with this situation.”
Gheen stated during the meeting that the next step would be an appeal in court, asking for an injunction. As of mid-afternoon on Thursday, no paperwork had been filed in Meigs County Common Pleas Court.
Gheen said he could not comment on the filing of any court documents.
Board members present were Will, Ridenour, Mark Hall, and John Rice.
More on the statement released by Stried on behalf of the OHSAA can be read in a related story in today’s publication and at www.mydailysentinel.com.