Vista Murrieta High School will forfeit five of its pre-conference games this year due to an ineligible athlete, according to a news release issued Monday by the Murrieta Valley Unified School District.
A powerhouse, Vista Murrieta was undefeated thus far (7-0 overall, 2-0 in Southwestern League), and is coming off a 12-2-0 overall, 5-0-0 league season in 2010-2011.
The student in question transferred to Vista Murrieta in the fall of 2009 as a sophomore, the news release stated. At that time, the student’s former school--in Georgia--verified verbally and in writing that the student was entering Vista Murrieta as a sophomore.
A question arose while an AVID instructor, who is also a coach, was helping the student prepare a college application, according to a letter written to Vista Murrieta students and parents.
The transferring school then informed Vista Murrieta High School administrators that the student was in his ninth semester of high school, a violation of CIF Southern Section Bylaws, the news release stated.
The news release did not provide the player's name or age.
This new information provided to the school was completely contrary to written and verbal confirmation of the student’s transcript and grade level provided by his former school when he entered Vista Murrieta, according to the news release.
The student was unaware that being in his ninth semester of high school would have any impact on his athletic eligibility, the news release stated.
"This student’s former school supplied incorrect data. Neither the student nor our school violated any CIF Rule," Vista Murrieta Athletic Director Ray Moore told students and parents Monday. "In fact, we followed all the rules and regulations.”
When it was discovered that the student was in his ninth semester, Vista Murrieta football coaches immediately informed Moore, who then informed the CIF Southern Section Commissioner, the news release stated.
"CIF informed the school that according to CIF Rules, all five games that the student had played in this season must be forfeited," the news release stated.
The school has filed a hardship appeal on behalf of the student, and the appeal is currently pending a decision by CIF.
Principal Darren Daniel sent a formal letter to the CIF Southern Section Commissioner indicating that the football team will forfeit the five pre-conference games to avoid additional sanctions against the team.
"This entire issue occurred because of misinformation provided to us by the transferring school," Moore said. "There was never an intention on anyone’s part to provide false or inaccurate information to gain additional time for athletic eligibility.
"I am very proud of Coach Candaele and our entire football staff for bringing this information to light. Their actions are a reflection of our school and athletic program’s mission of CLASS.
“While we have agreed to forfeit the first five non-league games of the season, we are moving forward with the season and trusting that as this matter goes through the review and appeal process, the right decision will be reached and forfeiture of the games won will not be necessary.”
The forfeitures put Vista Murrieta 2-5 overall, and 2-0 in league.
At least two of the games in question have been updated as forfeited on the school's MaxPreps website: a Sept. 16, 25-0 win over Corona Santiago now shows as a loss, and a Sept. 9, 31-28 win over Etiwanda now shows as a loss.
Playoffs are still possible for the Vista Murrieta Broncos, however, a CIF spokesperson told Patch Monday.