Anger at Douglass

Crowd is told player at center of forfeiture wasn't ineligible

High Schools


Douglass athletic director Mary Hughee stood before a gathering of angry football players, their parents and their coaches in the school gymnasium last night, insisting it was "not true" that the Ducks had used an academically ineligible player - a violation of state public school rules that led to the forfeiture of all nine of the Ducks' wins, their No. 2 seeding in this weekend's Class 2A North regional playoffs and the program's best record in more than 16 years.

As Douglass' athletic director, Hughee is responsible for certifying eligibility lists before the start of all sports seasons, and then bringing the athletes' names before principal Isabelle Grant for final approval.

"I make sure my eligibility lists are correct. ... We never got a hearing, never got a chance to defend ourselves," said Hughee, adding she and Grant are in the process of appealing to city and state officials to restore the Ducks' 9-1 record and their Baltimore City Division II title. "The fight is on. Something is going to be done."

Ned Sparks, director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, said Grant has 30 days to request to have Douglass' record restored - an appeal he said can be upheld, denied or modified.

But the Ducks have missed the deadline for re-entry into this weekend's playoffs, according to MPSSAA rules, which state, "The deadline for changes in the order of seeding shall be noon on Monday, Nov. 14."

Second-year coach Joe Holland learned Friday night that his Ducks were being denied their first playoff appearance since city schools joined the state association in 1993 - after having been assured by Grant and Hughee that "everything was fine" both earlier that week and earlier on Friday.

Yesterday, Grant barred The Sun from interviewing Holland, his coaching staff and players.

But Holland, citing rumors about the players' eligibility, told The Sun over the weekend that he had tried to remove the player from the team before the Ducks' first game of the year only to be told by Hughee he was eligible.

"She told me he was ineligible on a Monday, so we took his equipment," Holland said. "She came back a week and a half later and said he was OK, that she had gotten a letter from the teachers saying the grades were wrong and they were fixed in the system."

Holland said he learned "at about 7 p.m." on Friday that his season was forfeited.

"We told the players all year long that if they do the right thing, it will pay off in the end," Holland said. "They did that and so did our coaching staff, and now we have to tell them sometimes things don't work out. This is horrible."

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