Copyright 2017 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
The Florida High School Athletic Association's Infractions Appeals Committee denied Pahokee's request for a waiver Tuesday morning that would have led to the reinstatement of the Class 1A state football championship it won in December, plus all 14 of its wins.
Pahokee representatives asked the panel for an undue hardship waiver for the student who was at the center of sanctions that were levied by the FHSAA in January.
The student was in his fifth year of school and deemed ineligible to play high school athletics. He had never played a high school sport until this season.
The student and his mother testified during Tuesday's hearing, as did Pahokee Principal Michael Aronson and Palm Beach County School District attorney Lisa Carmona.
Aronson said a data-entry error resulted in an extra year of play for the athlete, who played this season as a non-traditional student. He did not attend Pahokee.
Aronson said Tuesday the school would have requested a hardship waiver for the student -- whose father suffered a stroke and whose mother battled cancer while he was in high school -- if he had been flagged as ineligible prior to the season.
FHSAA committee members asked the school whether the data entered into a statewide computer system was reviewed closely enough, as the student's transcripts would have indicated he had four years of grades.
The school admitted it did not look at the player's full transcript until after allegations were made regarding his eligibility in January.
The committee said the school should have had more oversight in reviewing the student's academic information before allowing him to play this season, and denied its motion for a hardship waiver.
The student's mother testified that her medical issues as well as those of the player's father took a toll on him emotionally. She said the player was a good student, and did not get into trouble.
The student then testified, and told the committee he would not have played this season if he had known he was ineligible.
He said playing football for the Blue Devils meant a lot to him.
Pahokee football coach Orson Walkes said Tuesday the school had remained hopeful of a positive decision from the FHSAA, but also was preparing for the opposite outcome.
"It's disappointing, but at the same time, we've been preparing for it both ways," he said. "We were praying for the best, and preparing for the worst."
Added Aronson, "Regardless of today's ruling, I am proud of the accomplishments of these young men, both on and off the field. We remain Pahokee Proud."
Pahokee can now appeal to the FHSAA's Board of Directors within five business days.
email@example.com Twitter: @JRWagner5