The Utah High School Activities Association is working on clarifying issues many had trouble understanding this past fall.
The UHSAA Executive Committee met Wednesday afternoon for several hours to discuss potential changes to the constitution, most prevalently, the issue of whether or not a team should be forced to forfeit a game it plays if an ineligible player participates in the game.
Mark Van Wagoner, UHSAA’s legal counselor, said the forfeiture rule has been a main target of the executive committee for some time now, and Wednesday’s meeting is just the first of many steps to address it.
Most specifically, Van Wagoner and Rob Cuff, UHSAA Executive Director, said a focus has been changing the wording in the bylaws from "may" to "shall" to avoid misinterpretation and confusion.
"In the hearings that we had, we discovered that the existence of the word ‘may’ in the rules were permissive," Van Wagoner said. "The association is thinking that the use of the word ‘may’ could create a number of inconsistent results."
"Shall," as Cuff explained, gives a more clear-cut opportunity to appeal decisions.
Cuff said the meeting Wednesday produced a recommendation that would force team-specific sports (football, basketball, baseball, soccer, etc.) to forfeit games in which an ineligible player played in. Van Wagoner said in instances for sports such as swimming, golf, tennis, etc., if a specific athlete on a team is ineligible at a meet or tournament, that individual’s score would be deleted rather than the entire team forfeiting.
"If a school or a coach or an AD is aware that playing an ineligible player, it will require a team to forfeit a game that every team plays in," Van Wagoner said. "It will require due diligence. That’s the intended consequence on this side."
"These are just proposals," Cuff added. "Nothing is set in stone."
One of the main reasons the executive committee brought forth these recommendations is to address how the potential violations will be looked upon moving forward. This past fall, East and Timpview had to answer for playing ineligible players, which turned into several weeks of public meetings to discuss potential punishment for each football program.
Cuff said the executive committee looks at the UHSAA bylaws and constitution every year to address potential issues going forward.
"The experiences we’ve had along the way," he said, "makes us look at this thing more closely."
The recommendations will be further reviewed by the UHSAA Board of Trustees on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 9 a.m. at the UHSAA offices in Midvale, according to Cuff. He said the meeting Thursday is just an opportunity for the board to review what the executive committee recommended from its meeting Wednesday.
"Nothing will be finalized by the board until March," Cuff said. "Then, once it’s finalized, it has to go out for a vote."
He said all 136 member schools around the state will have a chance to vote once the board decides what it wants to put through.
"That’s just where we’re at," Cuff said. "That’s what’s been proposed."
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