Terry Sanford will not continue in playoffs

Terry Sanford HS football team

November 17, 2009 5:42:31 PM PST
A judge ruled Tuesday that the Terry Sanford High School football team will not continue in the playoffs and will have to forfeit the game it already won.The hearing was continued from Monday.

Two weeks ago, the team was told it had to forfeit all of its games from the season, because of one ineligible player.

So, the booster club hired lawyers to fight what it thought was confusion over the player's attendance record.

Attorneys for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association presented evidence of grade tampering and said one player received credit for classes he never attended.

The player, Malichi Mills, had an English grade changed from an 'F' to a 'C', without the teacher's knowledge.

On the witness stand Tuesday, Terry Sanford's football coach blamed the English teacher for failing his player, because she did not complete a Personal Education Plan -a form to submit with the failing grade.

"She outlined the need for a PEP and she failed to write one," Wayne Inman said. "She should have written up a plan and she did not."

However, the Cumberland County schools superintendent said the coach was wrong.

"I think he's wrong," Superintendent Frank Till said. "I think that if an 'F' should have been changed to a 'C', they could have done their due diligence and gone to the teacher. Just to make an argument that the teacher cannot maintain the grades is not correct."

The player had also received credit for two classes which he never attended. And a lawyer for the team presented a written statement from a Terry Sanford guidance counselor who said this could be acceptable. The superintendent said it was not.

"I believe she's incorrect," Till said. "To give credit for a class that a student does not even attend is just not proper."

In his ruling, Judge Jack Thompson said there is clear evidence of violations of rules. It may very well have been facilitated by employees. And this should be dealt with by someone in the future.

The superintendent says a district investigation is ongoing.

"The real key in all these investigations that we're doing is to determine intent," Till said. "Who did it, and what was their intent."

But he also said the public should maintain faith in the Cumberland County school system.

"We didn't turn our back, we move forward," Till said. "And it's a statement to the rest of the district if there is anything going on; we need to have that discussion."

Now that Terry Sanford is ineligible to continue in the playoffs, the NCHSAA will recommend that it forfeit its win against Pine Forest High School Saturday -placing Pine Forest back in the playoffs.

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