Towers has become the third high school football team in the county in less than a year to forfeit a game for the use of an ineligible player.
A player who rushed for nearly 150 yards in the Titans’ 30-21 win over Central Macon on Aug. 27 was declared academically ineligible after it was discovered he was two credits short of eligibility, a DeKalb school official said.
“He was a transfer, and he didn’t disclose his total transcript to the school,” said DeKalb County athletic director Ron Sebree. “He also had not been submitted to the [Georgia High School Association] as a student-athlete. The principal self-reported it on Monday [Aug. 30].”
In addition to the forfeit, the school was fined $250 by the GHSA, Sebree said. Towers coach Marvin Jones, who is in his first season with the Titans, did not return phone calls by press time.
Near the end of last season both Stone Mountain and Lithonia had to forfeit several games because of ineligible players. Lithonia had 11 players academically ineligible and two others were not reported to the GHSA, Sebree said.
Stone Mountain, which was fighting for a playoff berth, had to forfeit games after a player who transferred from Lithonia was declared ineligible. The player transferred when a Lithonia assistant coach took a similar post at Stone Mountain. Former Lithonia coach Earl White and the Stone Mountain assistant both were fired because of the incidents.
“I’ve been in the DeKalb County school system since 1986. I coached football at Columbia for 10 years, and a kid didn’t get even a mouthpiece from me until they got cleared to play and everything was in place,” Sebree said. “Maybe this is going to open up some eyes and people see how serious this is. I’m not going to pretend it didn’t happen.”
Each high school in the county has an athletic liaison who is responsible for checking the eligibility of all student-athletes, Sebree said. Towers’ liaison resigned the week before the football season began and a new liaison was appointed before the first game.
“When a kid transfers in, coaches, liaisons and principals all know what they need to have,” Sebree said. “We preach accountability, honesty and integrity, and want it done right.”
The school system recently rewrote its policies on eligibility, and liaisons are required to attend GHSA clinics on eligibility, Sebree said. He and two athletic coordinators also visit all 20 high schools three times a year—during each athletic season—to go through paperwork on all student-athletes to make sure everything is in order. The process takes two weeks, Sebree said, and the findings are reported to the deputy superintendent.
“We don’t want kids to lose games because we didn’t do our jobs as adults,” Sebree said. “At the end of the day that’s what hurts more—that the kids have to lose ballgames because of this.
“Towers has a new coach but this is a pretty good introduction for him,” Sebree continued. “I’m not pointing blame, but this shouldn’t happen if everything was in place.”