After a final appeal, the Snow Canyon baseball team will be forced to forfeit four region wins for using an ineligible player. The ruling means the No. 2-ranked Warriors will have to play their way into the Class 3A state tournament, starting this Friday against Desert Hills.
A Utah High School Activities Association panel unanimously upheld a decision by the Region 9 principals to punish Snow Canyon by forfeiting all the region games in which the player, senior Gabe Chavira, participated. The Warriors went 4-1 during that stretch.
Snow Canyon faces tough path to playoffs
After the No. 2-ranked Warriors had to forfeit four region wins, they plunged from top of the standings to scrambling for the last playoff berth. Here’s what they must do to make a run:
» Beat Desert Hills at home on Friday at 7 p.m.
» Win a play-in game against the Thunder the following week at a neutral site
» As a No. 4 seed, beat No. 1 seed Juan Diego in Draper in the first round
The five-person panel, made up of members of the UHSAA’s Executive Committee and Board of Trustees, determined that Region 9 had acted within reasonable bounds by requiring the forfeitures and a $250 fine in its decision last week. Despite Snow Canyon principal Warren Brooks’ pleas for an alternative penalty, such as punishing the school administration for the mix-up, the ruling pushes the Warriors from atop the region standings to fighting for a potential play-in game.
Now that Snow Canyon has exhausted its options for getting the wins back, Brooks said the school and team would look forward.
"We’re going to do our very best to be in the position to get back to the playoffs," he said. "[The panel] listened to us and were very courteous, but we didn’t get what we were looking for. So we’re going to put it behind us and prepare to win the next few ball games."
The Warriors, who finished as runner-up last season in Class 4A, face a difficult road to get back to the championship game in 3A this year. They have to beat Desert Hills on Friday afternoon to tie for the fourth seed, then they would have to beat the Thunder again at a neutral site play-in the next week.
Even if Snow Canyon manages to sneak into the 3A tournament, it will have to face Region 10 champion Juan Diego, which is the three-time 3A champ.
Before the ruling, coach Reed Secrist said his team was readying for what will be a challenging run.
"They’ve been positive — they’ve been saying, ‘Let’s do it for Gabe,’" he said. "We’ve been doing real well so far. But there’s a lot of pressure on us because we’ve basically been playing single elimination baseball since Thursday."
At the hearing, Dixie principal Larry Bergeson said it was unpleasant for the region to punish Snow Canyon, the team he called "clearly the best in our region." But according to UHSAA guidelines, the principals determined forfeits were the most reasonable course of action rather than trying to subjectively judge the true impact Chavira made on games.
According to Brooks and Secrist, Chavira was a fill-in player, not an every day starter. But Bergeson couldn’t see a way to measure that when it came time to determine consequences.
"It wasn’t for any other purpose than enforcing the fair rules of play," Bergeson said. "We tried to establish what’s fair to the other teams, and then institutionally make sure these things don’t happen again."
According to Brooks, Snow Canyon athletic director Conley Gali and other administrators were confused because Chavira was 18 when he transferred into the school district from Las Vegas in December. They incorrectly assumed that because he was free to live on his own, no additional eligibility paperwork was required. Brooks recalled that when he had inquired into Chavira’s eligibility before the season, Gali reassured him all was well.
Brooks added that Gali had been placed on administrative leave, and even suggested possible administrative punishments as an alternative to the forfeitures.
"We want to make sure we protect the innocent victims and put the penalty who it belongs with," he said during the appeal.
After the ruling, Brooks declined to comment on whether the school would issue any further internal punishment to administrators.
Since the initial ruling last Wednesday, Snow Canyon has won its two games against Hurricane and Cedar by a combined margin of 26-0. Its game against the Thunder is set for 7 p.m. Friday. Desert Hills beat the Warriors, 6-4, in their first matchup.
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.