MSHSAA speaks out on St. Louis-area high schools using ineligible players on football teams

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ST. LOUIS – Several St. Louis-area high schools are in the spotlight for using ineligible players in football games.

Games have been forfeited and, in one case, an entire football program was suspended.

Cardinal Ritter, McCluer North, Bishop Dubourg, and Jennings have all recently admitted to using ineligible football players.

“This probably would be on the higher side of the number of instances at one time,” said Jason West, the Communications Director for the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA).

West says the MSHSAA has not had any other reports of ineligible players being used this fall besides in the St. Louis area.

Cardinal Ritter got busted after photos and videos showed a player who was supposed to be suspended for one game had instead played, wearing a different jersey and using a different name.

Ritter was undefeated but wound up forfeiting its entire season, firing all of its coaches, and suspending the football program until next year.

Jennings forfeited four games because it used a player who the school discovered was academically ineligible.

Bishop Dubourg forfeited one game after a player took the field for a short time who was not eligible to play varsity football.

And McCluer North made a roster error leading to a player sitting out a playoff game this Friday. McCluer North also volunteered to play the game on the road instead of at home and its athletic director was put on paid leave.

“I think it’s fairly certain to say the Cardinal Ritter situation should be in its own category,” West said. “The other schools that have self-reported the use, I don’t believe that they would fall in that win-at-all-costs. I believe that was just simply a mistake.”

The MSHSAA handbook says if a team uses an ineligible player, the school must forfeit all contests involved, adjust its place in conference standings, and/or relinquish its place in tournament standings and return team and individual awards.

All four St. Louis area schools self-reported the violations.

In the Cardinal Ritter case, West says Ritter self-reported after MSHSAA got an anonymous complaint and contacted the school.

West says that is critical because MSHSAA doesn’t police schools for violations.

“We do not have an enforcement arm say, like, an NCAA has an enforcement division or an investigation division,” West said. “There is a lot of the honor system with our association.”

West says there is a system in place at MSHSAA for people to report problems and for a committee to investigate if necessary. There is also training and meetings for athletic directors and principals where rules are discussed.

West is comfortable with schools policing themselves but admits it is more challenging than in the past to make sure everyone is playing by the same rules.

“It is getting a little more difficult because of the outside pressures – people thinking that the goal of high school sports is to get a college scholarship and that’s not the goal of what playing high school sports should be,” he said. “That should be a reward for it but that’s not the ultimate goal.”

“We’re building character and trying to build up to be a productive citizen more than being a big paycheck.”

The McCluer North situation is the only case that is still being investigated. A school district spokesperson tells Fox 2 that officials are still checking to make sure there are no other roster discrepancies.

West says it is possible that McCluer North may have to forfeit games.

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