That's a tough way to lose.
The S.C. High School League informed Bluffton High School on Friday afternoon that, as a result of allowing an ineligible player to participate in three preseason football scrimmages and the 75-0 win over Battery Creek in Week Zero, the league would fine the Bobcats $500, compel them to forfeit the game against the Dolphins and limit them to one scrimmage next season.
Bluffton head football coach Ken Cribb, whose Bobcats lost 21-8 at Effingham (Ga.) County on Friday night, could not comment, referring all questions to Beaufort County head of student services Gregory McCord .
Citing privacy concerns, McCord would not name the ineligible player.
McCord said the district this week discovered the player’s family had falsified information to establish residence in the district. He said the district self-reported the violations to the High School League and received its response Friday.
“We were fortunate,” McCord said. “It could have been worse.”
According to the SCHSL handbook, allowing an ineligible player to participate in a scrimmage is a $100 fine per violation, while allowing an ineligible player to compete in a game is a $500 fine per violation and forfeiture. That means Bluffton could have been fined $800.
“We were able to show where the intent to deceive came from the family and not the school,” McCord said.
McCord would not say who alerted the district that there may be an issue with a player at Bluffton, but the information stemmed from the investigation into a potential eligibility issue at Hilton Head Island High.
“We received information that we may have possible violations at a school other than a school that we were initially looking at, and so from there, we started conducting more thorough background searches (of transfers) and we found one.”
According to McCord, that included the physical verifications of some addresses.
McCord said he had no reason to believe anyone at Bluffton High School was involved in recruiting the athlete to the district.
“I believe any employee of the Beaufort County School District to be of high integrity, and unless and until we find out otherwise,” he said, “I have to believe that this was something that was the sole act of the family.”
According to McCord, state law may allow the district to recoup from the family a portion of the fine and a prorated portion of the money spent to educate the student in question.
“We are exploring the idea of looking to have that family pay that money back,” McCord said.
In the end, McCord called the situation unfortunate for “the school, the school district and all the athletes involved.”