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ECHS sports records stripped

By By Matthew Nascone
Honesty pays off.
Escambia County High School found that out firsthand last Friday when principal Kyle Ferguson noticed one student athlete on the school's football team did not meet the academic qualifications for eligibility when he was doing a random check of grades.
"It was discovered through a routine check of some grades in a semester check up for one student," Ferguson said. "We had some students we had to talk to about eligibility for next year. We wanted to make sure they knew they had to get their grades up for next year to be eligible."
Ferguson said he found the missing qualification on the student's transcript. This finding urged Ferguson to check the entire team's transcripts.
"We found the one student's ineligibility and we decided to check everyone's and found two more students who were academically ineligible," Ferguson said. "I immediately contacted Dan Washburn, the executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association and informed him of the incident. I drove to Montgomery (Wednesday) and had a talk with Mr. Washburn and we had a good meeting."
Because ECHS self-reported the incident, the consequences were minimal. The sanctions brought forth unto Escambia County High School are as follow:
"I hate this for our students, for our school, for our community and it is unfortunate because our coaches and players work very hard, but that is why rules do exist," Ferguson said. "We are expected to abide by them and at Escambia County High School we will always take the high road."
The athletes involved participated in football last fall and basketball through Jan. 5. The forfeiture of all games with an ineligible athlete results in an 0-10 regular season record for the football team and a 1-16 record for the basketball team as of Friday.
"As soon as I was made aware of it, I informed the coaches and pulled the students out of competition," Ferguson said. "And we are going to make sure that we check and recheck. It certainly was not done intentionally or maliciously, nevertheless it did happen and we are going to be held accountable."
According to Ferguson it is the athletic director's responsibility to check the academic eligibility of the players.
ECHS athletic director and head football coach Kyle Davis reiterated that the incident was not intentional.
"We submitted all the information in good faith and it was nothing we had done intentionally," Davis said. "It is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved, but we will pick up and move on towards next year."
Davis said he had a talk with his football team Thursday and they had many questions for him.
"I spoke with the guys and we answered all their questions as best as we could," he said. "They are ready to move forward and we will still build off the momentum from last year. And this does not take away any of the emotions from last year or how hard these guys worked."
Washburn said he was proud of the school self-reporting the incident.
"It was a good thing the school did because we depend on our principals to be of high character and integrity and to do what is right," Washburn said Thursday evening.
If the AHSAA would have had to investigate the matter Washburn said the penalties would have been stiffer, and that is why it is a good thing to self-report if an incident does arise.
To be declared eligible to play high school athletics in the state of Alabama, a student-athlete must pass six classes – four core classes plus two electives, and uphold a minimum composite, or average, grade of 70 percent in those classes. Two of the three ineligible athletes took only one of the needed two electives and the other did not meet the 70 percent requirement.
The faculty of ECHS was briefed on the incident Thursday after school ended for the day. The probation period does not keep the 2006-07 basketball team or the 2007 football team from participating in postseason play if they qualify for such events.
ECHS head basketball coach Jerome Antone declined comment for this article.