Weston Ranch athletic director Pat King announced Monday that the school’s girls basketball team will forfeit Saturday’s victory against East Union for using an illegal player.
The Cougars edged visiting East Union 65-63 on a last-second put-back, but the win is expected to be overturned because an athlete who played earlier that evening for the sophomore squad also participated in the varsity contest.
Rule 301.4 of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section bylaws states:
“An athlete being eligible in all respects — academic, age and grade level competition — may, during practice games, practices, matches or meets, move from one athletic classification to another. However, they may not compete in more than one classification in one day. Once league competition starts, in league, Subsection and Section games, matches or meets, the athlete shall only compete at a higher classification where he/she will remain for the duration of the season.”
King sent the following statement to other league A.D.s, principals and officials in an email:
“Our athletic department takes full responsibility for the actions of our (coaching) staff. We understand that we will forfeit the game. I apologize to everyone and will further educate my coaches about their actions and the implications which have arisen from this unacceptable situation.”
Three players from the sophomore squad were brought up for Saturday’s game but only one of them checked in. No infractions were committed until she was a participant early in the fourth quarter.
Coach Chris Bauer said it was “an honest mistake,” and with much at stake for his team there was little reason for him to intentionally try and pull a fast one.
At that point in the contest, Weston Ranch had one starter ejected and two others with four fouls apiece. Not counting the lower-level players, that left the shorthanded Cougars with just five varsity veterans.
“She didn’t even touch the ball,” Bauer said of the player, adding she logged less than 30 seconds of game action. “I was just giving somebody a breather because of foul trouble to other players. Had I known what I know now it would have never happened. I never would intentionally do that to the kids.”
Weston Ranch (11-2 VOL, 18-7 overall) meets Kimball (12-1, 23-3) in Tracy tonight for what going to be a winner-take-all showdown. Instead, the Cougars will only contend for a share, while Kimball is assured at least a piece of its first title. Eleventh-year Weston Ranch has not won a girls basketball championship in 10 varsity seasons, so this could be a big first for both programs.
The forfeiture mostly benefits East Union (8-5, 17-8), which gets the third and final SJS playoff berth out of the VOL, while Sonora (7-6, 13-9) is knocked out of contention. The two teams square off tonight in Sonora.
East Union already has a win over the Wildcats, but a season split would have given Sonora chance to qualify via other tiebreaking criteria. After the head-to-head tiebreaker, the league looks at how the two teams with mirroring records fared against higher-ranked opponents. In this case, East Union gets the nod with its “win” over Weston Ranch.
“It’s really an unfortunate situation,” East Union coach Jim Agostini said. “It puts everybody in a tough spot. “I don’t feel comfortable with this happening to coach Bauer because I know he didn’t mean to do anything wrong.
“For our team, we don’t want to feel like it was handed to us. We won eight out of our last 10 games so we’re playing some pretty good ball to be in this position. We still want to win (tonight) because it affects where we’re at with our seed.”
Oakdale High’s baseball team forfeited a game for breaking the same rule in 2009, but it was Sierra that was truly penalized. With the VOL championship already wrapped up, Oakdale’s varsity played a sophomore call-up against rival Sonora after he had already competed at the lower levels that day. Oakdale won the regular-season finale decisively, 10-4, and the second playoff berth was all set to be determined by a coin flip. That was until Sonora, then tied with Sierra for second place, protested the defeat and was awarded the win.
“From how I understood it, once you come up (to the varsity) you can’t come back down for the rest of the season,” Bauer said. “I’ve seen other schools do it. I’ve seen soccer players kick in football games on the same day of soccer games so I assumed it was OK. That’s how I interpreted it for 10 years.”