Chugiak High to plead case on football ineligibility today

Beth Bragg

Chugiak High, with the support of the Anchorage School Board and superintendent Carol Comeau, hopes to extend its football season today.

The school will try to persuade the Alaska School Activities Association that it should not have to forfeit three football victories for using an ineligible player who was allowed to play because of an administrative mistake by the high school's activities office.

The hearing in front of ASAA's board of directors is this morning at 10:30 at the Hilton Hotel.

If ASAA rules in Chugiak's favor, the Cook Inlet Conference standings will change and the Mustangs will head to Juneau this week for the quarterfinals of the state football playoffs -- and defending state champion West will be out of the playoff picture.

If Chugiak is denied, standings don't change and West will get a chance to defend its state title.

At issue is the ineligibility of a home-schooled player who appeared in Chugiak's first six games.

The player lives in the Chugiak district but is enrolled in the Galena City School District's IDEA home-school program, a statewide program that includes more than 800 students in Anchorage.

Anchorage School District rules say that a student must be enrolled in the Anchorage district in order to be eligible to participate in activities at an Anchorage public school. The rule allows for some home-schoolers to be eligible, but only those enrolled with the district's two home-school programs, the Family Partnership and Frontier charter schools. Another 800 students or so are enrolled in those charter schools.

The student wound up on the football team anyway because of an administrative mistake -- someone apparently failed to realize that his enrollment in IDEA made him ineligible for ASD activities.

Chugiak contends that the entire football team should not be punished for an administrative mistake. The school board and Comeau agree.

"I think we have support. Whether that will turn ASAA, I have absolutely no idea," Chugiak coach Duncan Shackelford said last week.

Though Chugiak players were buoyed last week by the school board's unanimous decision to write a letter of support to ASAA, Gary Matthews, the association's executive director, said he can't recall the board ever overturning a decision on forfeits.

The ASAA rulebook is clear, he said -- if a team uses an ineligible player, the team forfeits any competitions involving that player.

At stake are three victories -- over CIC foes South and Eagle River and nonconference opponent Colony -- as well as playoff berths.

Right now, Chugiak is 2-5 in the CIC and out of playoff contention. Service (7-0 CIC), South (6-1), East (4-3) and West (3-4) are the CIC's four playoff teams and are seeded in that order, meaning Service and South will play quarterfinal games in Anchorage this week while East and West will play on the road, at Juneau and Wasilla, respectively.

However, if ASAA rules in favor of Chugiak, the Mustangs would become the No. 3 seed from the CIC with a 4-3 record, because their CIC victories over South and Eagle River will be restored. East would also be 4-3 but would fall to the No. 4 seed because Chugiak would win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

West would remain 3-4 and would be eliminated from the playoffs. South would fall to 5-2 but would remain the No. 2 seed.

As this story develops throughout the day we will be updating it. Please check back.

Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.


By BETH BRAGG
Anchorage Daily News