By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
The West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission Monday reinstated an Elkins High School football player, keeping the Tigers’ Top 10 season on track and putting a damper on Oak Hill’s postseason chances.
The player, identified in published reports as L.J. Lawrence, was ruled ineligible last week after the WVSSAC received a complaint concerning his residency.
“In accordance with our normal procedure, this office referred the matter to the administration of Elkins High School,” read a Monday press release from the WVSSAC, the governing body for West Virginia interscholastic activities. “The school investigated the situation, and initially it was determined that the student-athlete was ineligible under the rules of the WVSSAC.”
However, the Randolph County Board of Education intervened, reviewed the situation and opined that, under federal law, Lawrence should be eligible for extracurricular activities. At the WVSSAC’s request, the state Board of Education reviewed the federal law cited by Randolph County officials — the McKinney-Vento Act that establishes guidelines for public schools to provide better educational opportunities for homeless students — and concurred with the finding that he is eligible.
“At the request of (the WVSSAC), the West Virginia State Board of Education reviewed the federal law cited by the Randolph County superintendent, and concluded that under these particular facts and circumstances of this case, the student athlete in question is eligible for interscholastic athletic competition in West Virginia because of federal law,” the SSAC release read. “Accordingly, the student athlete in question is eligible. Elkins High School will not be required to forfeit any football games.”
“It is our hope that this will bring closure” to the eligibility issue, WVSSAC Executive Director Gary Ray said.
Elkins, 7-2 and No. 8 in the Class AAA playoff ratings, was stripped of its wins last week. A hearing for a preliminary injunction had been set for Friday, but it now won’t be necessary. Instead, the Tigers — with Lawrence in the backfield — will conclude the regular season with a home game against Class AAA No. 16 Lewis County (7-2) Friday.
If the decision to strip the Tigers of their victories had stood, the Oak Hill Red Devils, who lost to Elkins in the season opener, would have been among the teams that would have benefited most by gaining additional ratings points and moving up the Class AAA ladder.
The No. 18 Red Devils (6-3), who swamped PikeView 62-6 last week, will play at winless triple-A foe Lincoln County (0-8) Friday to end the regular season.
The top 16 teams in each classification advance to the playoffs, which begin Nov. 9.
— E-mail: skeenan@