By Alan Goldenbach
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 24, 2010; 1:10 AM
Less than two days before the D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association football championship is scheduled to be played, the annual Thanksgiving Day matchup remained uncertain pending Tuesday's appeal by Ballou heard at the office of D.C. Public Schools General Counsel.
Ballou appealed Friday's DCPS ruling that the Knights used an ineligible player in their Nov. 13 semifinal victory over Dunbar. The ruling meant the Crimson Tide would play H.D. Woodson in the Thursday's Turkey Bowl at Eastern High School.
The appeal was heard over the course of three hours, with witnesses testifying individually before DCPS attorneys. A spokesperson for acting schools chancellor Kaya Henderson said a decision on the appeal would come Wednesday morning.
According to sources with knowledge of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity because details remain confidential, the investigation centered around a grade change made for a Ballou player that allowed him to become eligible. The source said the Ballou administration realized shortly before the end of the first marking period on Oct. 28 that the player would not have a 2.0 grade-point average and thus would be ineligible for the playoffs.
One source familiar with Tuesday's testimony said the Ballou administration then moved the student from a class in which he was about to get an F into another class on Oct. 20. The student attended that class for only three days before the end of the marking period and was given an A in the class on his report card. The source said DCPS Athletic Director Marcus Ellis and Ballou Coach Moe Ware had no knowledge of the grade change.
Ballou principal Rahman Branch, who testified at the hearing Tuesday, said afterward that there was no grade change. He added that part of Ballou's defense was that the protest came after the midseason deadline mandated by DCIAA rules.
"There was no grade change issue," Branch said. "The issue is around the DCPS process [regarding protests]. It's a nail-biter."
After Tuesday's testimony, DCPS attorneys prepared a report that was sent on to Henderson on Tuesday evening.
Both Ballou and Dunbar have been practicing since Ballou beat the Crimson Tide, 35-31, in the DCIAA semifinals, each hoping to get a crack at H.D. Woodson, which won the other semifinal and knows it's going to be playing Thursday.
"No one understands what we're going through," Woodson Coach Greg Fuller said. "You've got two teams preparing for one team. Then you've got one team preparing for two teams."