Goose Creek High School officials say they will be taking the disqualification of their football team to court.
The Berkeley County School District released a statement Thursday afternoon stating that the district has filed a legal action which will be heard on Friday at 9 a.m. at the Berkeley County Courthouse to have the Goose Creek High School football team reinstated to the playoffs.
"This afternoon we decided that pursuing a legal course of action was appropriate and justifiable," Superintendent Rodney Thompson stated. "First, the punishment of our students does not fit the infraction; second, there was no intent to gain competitive advantage in play; third, there was no intent to deceive; and, fourth, the child in question should qualify for hardship consideration given his special qualifications."
District officials say the Joye Law Firm will be handling the case at no cost to the district. Attorneys Ken Harrell and Chris McCool will seek to have Goose Creek High School reinstated to the playoffs.
"We recognize that this is a difficult decision that may affect other teams," Thompson said. "However, we must do what is right and honorable by all children. Coaches around the state have been extremely supportive of Coach Reedy. The league's decision undermines future fair play and will make self-reporting obsolete. The appeals process should make exceptions when there is clearly no competitive advantage gained.
Principal Jimmy Huskey, Head Coach Chuck Reedy and Goose Creek football players appeared dejected during Thursday morning's 10 a.m. news conference. The team was disqualified from the South Carolina 4A Division II playoffs by the South Carolina High School League earlier this week for playing an ineligible player.
Huskey and Reedy told reporters they were off to meet with lawyers at the end of the news conference. They do not have much time to take action, as Conway, the team they defeated 48-7 last week, prepares to take their spot against Bluffton Friday night.
According to school officials, the athlete in question was a transfer student.
At Thursday's press conference, Huskey said when Coach Reedy pulled the student's legal transcript at the beginning of the football season it was incomplete and only showed three years on it.
The complete transcript came to the school a week later.
Officials say the school alerted the SCHSL this week after uncovering the student in question had already used his four years of high school athletics eligibility. The team was then disqualified.
An appeal to overturn the disqualification was denied Wednesday night. Officials upheld the disqualification with a vote of 9-2.
"We were shocked, we thought we did the right thing," Huskey said in regards to self reporting the incident. "We had all the confidence we would be successful."
Huskey said the school is keeping the option open to file an injunction, and will meet with lawyers Thursday to discuss the school's next step.
"We don't want to punish people who have nothing to do with this, but we have to do what's right," Huskey said.
Officials say Goose Creek asked for a closed door meeting Wednesday night to protect the player involved, but Huskey says looking back he should have made the session public.
Reedy said the ineligible player is an 18-year-old special needs student who went to seven different schools.
He told reporters at Thursday's press conference the coaches used football as a teaching tool for the student.
"We feel we're there to help kids so we gave him a chance," said Reedy.
When other coaches wanted to dismiss the player from the team because "he wasn't good enough," Reedy said that wouldn't be the right thing to do. The student only entered the field of play when the team was up by at least 41 points, according to Reedy.
That player played a total of 17 snaps over the course of five games in the season, Reedy added.
Reedy said he told players Tuesday that right would prevail, but "sometimes right doesn't prevail and we'll use this as a learning experience."
Goose Creek football players appeared heartbroken during Thursday's press conference.
Senior Tramel Terry, a stand-out wide receiver who has committed to playing at Georgia, broke down when expressing what the disqualification means to him and his teammates.
"It really hurts," Terry said with tears in his eyes. "We're just trying to be a good example. We fought so hard. I just wanted to help get these guys another ring."
"What really hurts is we didn't know last Friday was our last game," said Dylan Steele, a senior offensive lineman on the team.
In addition to support from "Gator Nation", Reedy said other coaches around the state expressed overwhelming support for the team.
"There are a lot of coaches out there who have no confidence in the SCHSL," Reedy said.
Community members have created a petition on change.org, asking the SCHSL to let the Goose Creek football team compete in Friday's playoff game. The team was scheduled to play Bluffton at home.
To sign the petition, click here.
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