Updated 6:15 p.m.
GREENSBORO — One day after its first loss of the football season, Page learned that it will likely have to forfeit three more games because two Pirates varsity players were academically ineligible.
Guilford County Schools officials responded to questions about eligibility issues at Page by writing in an email that the violations had been reported to the N.C. High School Athletic Association, which is also expected to levy a fine against the school. The names of the football players were not disclosed because of privacy laws. Page officials referred all questions to Guilford County Schools administration.
The Pirates were 4-0 and ranked No. 1 in the HSXtra.com Football Top 10 poll heading into Wednesday night’s home game against Reagan, but were upset 14-7 at Marion Kirby Stadium. Forfeit losses to Davie County on Aug. 17, Northern Guilford on Aug. 24 and Dudley on Aug. 31 would leave Page with a 1-4 record heading into its next game, Sept. 21 at Southern Guilford.
James Alverson, the NCHSAA’s assistant commissioner wrote in an email: “Per NCHSAA policy, we cannot comment on or confirm violations/potential violations by member schools.”
The announcement that eligibility violations had occurred at Page also comes one day after the school’s longtime athletics director, Rusty Lee, said he would be retiring, effective Oct. 1.
Leigh Hebbard, athletics director for Guilford County Schools, said in an email that “all fall sports at Page are being reviewed, and so far no other (eligibility) violations have been discovered. I have no reason right now to believe a review is needed at other schools.”
Page did forfeit a baseball victory over Grimsley late in the 2018 season because the Pirates’ pitcher exceeded the pitch limit mandated by National Federation rules. But that was not a paperwork issue.
Paperwork can be a challenge in Guilford County, where schools must certify the eligibility of each student for athletics participation by compiling at least eight completed forms. (See ELIGIBILITY FORMS info box.) One of those forms certifies that a student either has passed at least three classes on a “4 X 4 block schedule” or five classes on the “traditional schedule” during the semester immediately prior to the semester of athletics participation. If those requirements are not met, the student is not academically eligible for participation.
Page fields teams in nine fall sports: cheerleading, boys and girls cross country, field hockey, football, girls golf, boys soccer, girls tennis and volleyball. For football, that means certifying the eligibility of 56 students in the program this year.
The coaches must submit eligibility forms to their athletics director, who keeps them on file, and complete and sign an additional form that summarizes all of the other forms. If a coach is not a staff member, that coach is not allowed to review certain forms and documents because of privacy laws.
This is not the first time that eligibility issues have affected Guilford County football programs in recent years.
• In 2014, defending NCHSAA Class 4-A champion Dudley was not allowed to compete in the NCHSAA playoffs because of violations of the eight-quarter rule that governs participation in junior varsity and varsity games during the same season. The Panthers had to forfeit all 10 of their victories in an unbeaten regular season, while defending Class 2-AA champion Andrews also was disqualified from the playoffs and had to forfeit nine victories. Both schools were fined, as were five other GCS programs that did not have to forfeit games: Northeast Guilford, Page, Ragsdale, Southeast Guilford and Western Guilford.
• A year earlier, three-time defending state champion Northern Guilford had to forfeit two victories during the regular season because of violations of the eight-quarter rule. Those two forfeit losses ultimately affected the Nighthawks’ playoff seeding, and they lost at Boiling Springs Crest in the NCHSAA Class 3-AA West Regional championship game.