Any school wishing to vie for a spot in the District’s new football playoff must abide by the same eligibility standards to which schools in the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association are bound, D.C. statewide athletic director Clark Ray said in an interview Thursday.
Independent institutions such as Friendship Collegiate, a charter school, or the three D.C.-based members of the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference – St. John’s, Carroll and Gonzaga – have until the start of the 2012-13 school year to sign a “standards of competition clause saying they agree to play by the same set of rules” as the D.C. public schools, Ray said.
There may be some schools that do not wish to sign the waiver and, therefore, will not be eligible to compete for the city title.
“The answer is clear: These are our rules,” Ray said. “If you want to compete, you’re going to have to follow them. If you don’t, that’s fine. It’s your decision.”
The playoff format will include a four-team playoff of public charter schools, independent schools and private schools, with the winner to meet the champion of the Turkey Bowl, the DCIAA title game traditionally held on Thanksgiving Day.
Ray said the bracket opposite the DCIAA will hold its semifinals on Nov. 17 and its play-in to the city championship game on Nov. 24. Ideally, Ray said, the higher-seeded team will host those three games. In the case of, say, Friendship Collegiate, a independent power that does not have a home field, Ray said his office would work with D.C. Parks & Rec and DCPS to find a suitable location for the game(s).
The city championship game will be played Dec. 1, and Ray said the preferred location is Eastern High School, the same place in which the Turkey Bowl is hosted. The location of the city championship game, however, has yet to be finalized.
Ray said he expects there to be challenges made regarding the eligibility of players this season, especially considering it is “the first year where everyone is not familiar with how the system is going to work.” He also noted that there is “a litany of things where you can get special exceptions to those rules” and said a process will be in place to govern such requests.
If, for example, an athlete at a particular school wanted to apply for a hardship waiver, said athlete would take the matter to his or her school’s athletic director, who then would bring the request to the attention of the school’s Local Education Agency. DCPS is one LEA. Each charter school is its own LEA.
After preparing supporting documentation, the LEA would take the matter to Ray’s office, at which point he would review the case and determine whether he supported the request. Regardless of Ray’s support, the matter then will be put in front of a three-person panel appointed by the state superintendent of education. That panel will have final say on such matters.
Ray said there likely will be a pool of five officials appointed to be potential members of that three-person panel on a particular case, though those five officials have yet to be appointed.
“The same thing will happen with different eligibility issues,” Ray said. “If someone says, ‘Oh, Friendship Collegiate is playing with ineligible players,’ or, ‘Cardozo is playing with ineligible players,’ it has to come from a school representative to the LEA where the infraction supposedly has taken place, and then it goes up to the state.”
Ray said a “Division II” football championship game also will be played on Dec. 1. Any school that does not qualify for the DCIAA playoffs or for one of the four spots on the other side of the bracket will qualify, so long as it has a record of .500 or better. The top four of those schools will be chosen and will play in a playoff of their own leading up to Dec. 1.
“For years, the balance of power in the DCIAA has been in the west side of the city,” Ray said. “So the reason we’re trying to create a Division II [bracket] is to give teams an opportunity that may, after the third or fourth week [of the season], have no chance of making the Turkey Bowl, and therefore, giving those guys something to play for so they don’t feel dejected. Hopefully that will build up the desire to compete, to play for state championships.”
Ray said his office also is planning to put together a cross-country state championship, which would be held the morning of Nov. 10, and boys’ and girls’ soccer state championship games, which would be held later that night.
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