At an appeals hearing Thursday afternoon, the PIAA reversed the five forfeits given to the Washington High School football team by the WPIAL for using an ineligible player.
That means Wash High will be able to participate in the WPIAL playoffs and will have a first-round home game as the second-place team in the Class AA Interstate Conference.
The PIAA granted a request by Washington to make a hardship waiver for senior Quorteze Levy retroactive to the beginning of the season. The WPIAL, which granted Levy the waiver, was not willing to do that, citing its bylaws.
“We’re very relieved and appreciative of the PIAA for considering the merits of this case,” said Washington athletic director Joe Nicolella. “We’re also appreciative of the WPIAL for originally hearing our case and granting the (waiver). It’s a win-win situation for the WPIAL and the PIAA. I haven’t slept since last week.”
Washington discovered last Friday that Levy was in his fifth year of participation and reported it to the WPIAL. The WPIAL and PIAA allow a student only four years (eight semesters) of eligibility unless a school applies for a waiver. At a meeting Monday night, the WPIAL Board of Control was petitioned by Wash High for the hardship waiver.
On Tuesday, the board ruled that Levy could be granted the waiver, allowing him two semesters of eligibility, but the WPIAL said it would only take effect on the day it was granted. The WPIAL felt its bylaws did not allow the waiver to be granted retroactively. So the WPIAL ruled Wash High must forfeit each game it won that Levy participated in.
“There is no reference to retroactive waivers in the bylaws,” said Tim O’Malley, executive director of the WPIAL. “That was the issue. My opinion is that he’s ineligible. Our board acted on how we interpret our bylaws. They are the same bylaws the PIAA has.”
Bob Lombardi, executive director of the PIAA, said it was the opinion of the appeals board that the WPIAL could not award a waiver that granted partial eligibility. Lombardi said the board felt if the WPIAL was willing to grant a waiver, it would have to be retroactive to the beginning of the school year.
“The board is very well versed in our bylaws,” Lombardi said. “We know the language very well. You can grant one semester or two. There is no language about (granting a partial semester of eligibility).”
Levy arrived at Washington four years ago after transferring from Kalamazoo, Mich. He attended ninth grade at Kalamazoo but did not earn any credits. When he transferred to Washington, Levy repeated ninth grade, which meant that without a waiver, his eligibility would expire at the end of his junior season. Nicolella said the oversight was not detected until Friday when the guidance department was examining Levy’s transcript. The school reported the problem to the WPIAL.
In a teleconference call with Levy, Washington administrators and the WPIAL, the PIAA reversed the WPIAL ruling.
“I gave (football coach Mike Bosnic) a big thumbs-up while I was on the call,” said Nicolella. “He was in the room when we placed the phone call. You should have seen him beaming.”
Had the WPIAL ruling been upheld by the PIAA, Washington would have gone from a 6-2 record to the last-place team in the Interstate Conference.
“There have been some sleepless nights for me,” said Bosnic. “It was hard on my stomach, too. It’s been really stressful. I’m happy it’s over, and I’m happy with the decision.”
Washington plays its regular-season finale tonight at Waynesburg. The WPIAL playoff pairings will be announced Monday night in Green Tree.
“I am so relieved and happy the wins haven’t been taken from the kids,” Bosnic said. “Our players know, and they are real excited to get back to practice and focus on Waynesburg. We’re also very excited to be back in the playoffs.”