Centennial forfeits 6 matches 'Honest mistake' over academically ineligible player costs team 5 wins

April 13, 1997|By Stan Rappaport | Stan Rappaport,SUN STAFF

Centennial, winner of seven straight Howard County regular-season titles, has forfeited its first six matches -- five of them victories -- because it played with an academically ineligible player.

The violation, which involves a senior girl who is one of the team's best players -- was discovered by a school counselor and reported to administrators Friday morning. Tennis coach Daryl Blickenstaff, who teaches at nearby Burleigh Manor Middle School, told the team before its 6-3 win Friday against visiting Hammond.

Centennial triple-checks the eligibility of its athletes, using the coach, athletic director and an assistant principal.

"It was an honest mistake," Blickenstaff said. "I missed the person's name."

Said Centennial principal Lynda Mitic: "It's very regrettable that the error was made. My heart really goes out to the kids on the team."

Blickenstaff, in his second season, told the team to "put this behind you as quickly as possible. We have a lot of tennis left this year. We need to focus and do the best we can in thoses matches."

The Howard County eligibility policy was approved in August and took effect with the opening of practices for winter sports. It is the toughest in the Baltimore area.

It requires students who want to participate in extracurricular activities or play high school sports to have a 2.0 grade-point average and no failing grades.

The Centennial athlete became ineligible because of her grades in the second marking period, which ended in February.

"We've been told about the policy so many times," said Matt Ruppert, Centennial's top boys player. "I don't understand why the player would put the whole team in danger like that."

Ruppert hopes the Eagles can rebound and win their sixth straight Tournament Cup trophy following the regular season. Centennial has won the tournament 10 times in the last 12 years.

Centennial began last week by losing to Atholton, 6-3, snapping the Eagles' 46-match win streak against county teams. The Eagles now are 1-6, having to forfeit wins over Wilde Lake, Long Reach, River Hill, Howard and Oakland Mills.

It is the second time this school year a team in Howard County has forfeited games. Mount Hebron's boys basketball team forfeited eight games because one of its players still was ineligible to participate in extracurricular activities after being disciplined for having beer on school property.

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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