Injunction to have forfeits overturned next for Dunbar

Dunbar High School is pursuing an injunction in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court to overturn the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s ruling that two of its games be forfeited.

Dunbar coach Darran Powell said Monday night the school has until noon Tuesday for a Dayton Public Schools lawyer to file.

“That’s the next step,” Powell said. “It’s very heart-breaking. We’re going to fight to the end for these kids.”

Although unlikely, if Dunbar’s forfeits are overturned, the effect would drastically alter the playoff status of many Division II, III and IV teams. The playoffs begin this weekend.

The fallout of Dunbar’s ouster from the playoffs due to the ruling has had an extreme opposite affect at Belmont and Piqua. Belmont finds itself celebrating a second straight playoff appearance, only because Dunbar forfeited its Week 9-10 games for using an academically ineligible player. But that ruling by the OHSAA knocked Piqua out of the playoffs, courtesy of Belmont’s unforeseen entry into the postseason.

“We’re not going in under ideal circumstances,” Belmont coach Earl White said, “but we’re proud and happy. Any time you have the opportunity to play in Week 11, that’s what it’s all about.”

Finger-pointing and accusations have dogged Dunbar since the Wolverines apparently learned during halftime that it would forfeit last Friday’s game against Belmont at Welcome Stadium. What followed was a bizarre sequence of plays that twice involved Dunbar rolling the ball to Belmont players and throwing a long backward pass. Those plays were nullified and the game was stopped by officials. Normal play resumed afterward.

Not only had Dunbar forfeited the Belmont game, but it also forfeited a Week 9 defeat of Cincinnati Taft. The collateral effect on the Harbin computer rankings — a point system used to determine playoff teams — was widespread.

Playoff spots are determined by Level 1 points for wins and Level 2 points for wins by a defeated opponent. Cincinnati Princeton (6-4), which had beaten Dunbar in Week 3, dropped to No. 9 in Division II, Region 8. Piqua (7-3) also fell to No. 9 in D-III, Region 12. The top eight teams in each region advance to the postseason.

Ironically, Cincinnati Taft soared to No. 7 in Region 16 and Dunbar dropped to No. 9.

“The first part is shock and then frustration,” Piqua athletic director Chip Hare said. “We always talk about control the things you can control, but these were issues that no one in our system did. For our seniors, this is an opportunity they’ll never get back.”

All Ohio schools are on the same nine-week grading period. Hare and White, also Belmont’s AD, said their policy is to check academic eligibility each week and target potential students who are struggling. Students must pass five credits to be athletically eligible.

Powell said he wasn’t aware any of Dunbar’s players were ineligible until halftime of the Belmont game. That set off a flurry of communications between administrators and the OHSAA.

Beau Rugg, OHSAA assistant commissioner for football, said he was contacted by Dayton Public Schools AD Mark Baker on Friday night.

“If we have a situation where mistakes were made and they didn’t know the regulations or didn’t know how it was to be applied, it’s a matter of helping educate so they don’t get in that situation again,” said Rugg on Monday.

Dunbar AD Pete Pullen and Piqua coach Bill Nees didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“We’re going to be working closely with the OHSAA to make sure our coaches and athletic directors and counselors are trained to put additional measures in place to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” said Baker on Saturday.

There have been many other instances of violations that affected the football playoffs:

• In 1991 Middletown was banned from the playoffs for the following two years after self-reporting it had allowed an ineligible player to participate in the playoffs. At that time teams were not removed from the playoffs for such an infraction, a rule the OHSAA has since changed. Jim Place, currently the coach at Ponitz, resigned as the Middies’ coach soon afterward.

• In 2009 Thurgood Marshall had a backfield that featured four players who gained 1,000-plus yards each. But Thurgood, then coached by Earl White, forfeited Week 1-3 games for using an ineligible player and missed the D-IV playoffs despite going 10-0 on the field.

• Alter overcame Week 1-2 forfeits because of an ineligible player to win the 2008 D-IV state title as a No. 6 regional seed. That was the first of consecutive state titles for the Knights.

• The most notorious consequence for playing an ineligible player was in 1995 when unbeaten Cincinnati Colerain was disqualified just days before it was to play for the Division I state title. Acting on a tip, Colerain self-reported to the OHSAA that one of its seniors had been in high school five years. Administrators had failed to realize he had duplicated his freshman year.

Colerain, whose coach was current Ohio State University assistant Kerry Coombs, forfeited all 13 games it played. Brunswick, which lost to Colerain in the state semis, was reinserted into the title game, which it lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius.

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