Hickory High forfeits 9 football games after discovering ineligible player

HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - A Catawba County high school had to forfeit all of its wins from last season after the state athletic association found an ineligible player on the team.

According to Hickory Public Schools , the high school was contacted by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) just before winter break that an ineligible player may have competed as a member of the 2011 football team.

The team had eight wins, four losses and one tie in the 2011 season.

The school conducted an internal investigation and reported their findings to the NCHSAA.

Hickory High School learned that they were in violation of the NCHSAA "residency rule."

While the student in question - a senior - was legally able to attend Hickory High School by living in the district, he was ineligible to participate in fall sports since he was not living with a biological parent or court-ordered custodian.

"It is unfortunate that this situation occurred, but it appears to be the result of a misunderstanding regarding NCHSAA eligibility criteria governing homeless or unaccompanied youth rather than a deliberate attempt to circumvent rules," said Superintendent Walter Hart.

The district told WBTV that appropriate actions are being implemented by the school system to ensure that such a situation does not occur again.

"We are going to provide training for all coaches with regards to the NCHSAA eligibility rules at the start of each sports season," Superintendent Hart said.

Football players say they are saddened by what happened, and they don't blame the player in question.

"It was not really his fault at all," said Dante Patterson.

"He didn't do it on purpose," added D.J. Hawkins.

The wonder why the circumstance of whom a student lives with delegates what happens on the field.

"It is confusing," said Patterson.

Hickory High Athletic Director, and football coach, John Worley announced his retirement last December after working with the Hickory Public Schools for 28 years.

"Coach Worley is a wonderful coach—great person of integrity. He had previously made plans to retire, desiring to spend more time with his family," Beverly Snowden of Hickory Schools told WBTV.

"Worley has led young athletes to hundreds of collective wins in football, softball, and basketball over his 28 years of service to Hickory Public Schools. His achievements have been continuous--with recognition for conference titles, state playoffs, sectional and regional championships, and Worley's selection as Conference Coach of the Year."

Hickory Public Schools is currently in the process of interviewing candidates for the AD/Head Football Coach for Hickory High.

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