Columbus Africentric Secondary has become the first basketball team in Ohio boys or girls tournament history to forfeit a state championship, and only the second team in Ohio in any sport to vacate a title won during tourney play.
The decision was announced yesterday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
At the heart of the forfeit was a clerical error, the failure of a former Africentric athletic administrator to complete and forward the required paperwork for a player who had transferred to the Columbus magnet school.
Within two weeks of winning their championship, the eligibility of Nubians starting senior guard Laquawn Perry was questioned, and school officials discovered that the necessary forms to complete his intra-district transfer from Columbus Brookhaven in April of 2004 could not be located.
"They do have to forfeit their championship and any other games that the ineligible player participated in," OHSAA information director Bob Goldring said yesterday.
"Who will fill the vacated district, regional and state championships left by the forfeit will be determined at a later date."
Goldring said OHSAA commissioner Dan Ross made the decision after receiving the results of an investigation conducted by Africentric and officials from Columbus Public Schools.
"They found that the proper paperwork for the transfer was not completed and that [Africentric] used an ineligible player," Goldring said. "The bylaw is clear on this. They can still appeal the decision."
Africentric, in just its second year of competing in varsity athletics, was Ohio's top-ranked Division IV boys team entering tournament play.
With a varsity roster stocked largely with transfer students from other schools in the Columbus area, the Nubians, who had eight senior and three junior players, capped a 27-1 season on March 19 by defeating Cleveland Heights Lutheran East 74-66 in the small-school state championship game at Value City Arena in Columbus.
Africentric got to the title game by beating Putnam County League champion Continental 61-45 in the semifinals on March 17. Perry led Africentric with 14 points against Continental in the semis, and added 17 points in the finals.
The Nubians had earlier defeated the Columbus Wellington School in the district finals and South Webster in the regional finals.
When Africentric initially notified the OHSAA of the possible bylaw infraction on April 1, Marvenia Bosley, deputy superintendent of Columbus Public Schools, announced that the school's former athletic director had failed to complete Perry's transfer paperwork, which was never received at the OHSAA office in Columbus.
That athletic director, Larry Marshall, accepted a position at Columbus Mifflin High School in January.
According to OHSAA bylaws, athletes are required to sit out one year from the date of their transfer before regaining eligibility to participate, unless that athlete changes residence from one designated school district to another, or is granted an intra-district transfer by the school district's superintendent.
Like Toledo Public Schools, CPS is a multi-school district and has open enrollment for students entering high school from eighth grade. OHSAA bylaws allow immediate athletic eligibility for any incoming freshmen athletes enrolling at a high school outside of the defined high school district in which they reside.
Once attending high school, however, athletes can receive immediate eligibility upon transferring to another school only when changing residence to another defined school district (within the multi-school district or outside of it), or when receiving an intra-district transfer approved in writing by the superintendent of the school district.
Since Perry did not move from the defined Brookhaven district, he needed an intra-district transfer to be granted and forwarded to the OHSAA before he could gain immediate eligibility. Perry was a member of Brookhaven's 2003 Division I state runner-up team.
The previous team to forfeit a state championship was St. John's Jesuit, which won an ice hockey title in 1999 and surrendered the championship trophy to runner-up Bowling Green just days later when the Titans' use of an ineligible freshmen player during tournament play was reported to and confirmed by St. John's athletic director Ed Heintschel.
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