Birmingham withdrew its volleyball team from the U.S. Youth Games yesterday after an official discovered two players had presented documents with false names and birth dates, rendering them ineligible.
Scotty Colson, Birmingham's games coordinator, also said he fired volleyball coach Kim Thomas because, he said, Thomas was not forthcoming with the correct information.
Thomas could not be reached for comment.
The athletes, whose names were not released by Colson, were both less than two months older than the age limit of 15, Colson said. He said they registered using birth certificates and medical forms of youngsters who would have been eligible, and even brought in adults posing as parents to verify their identity.
Colson, who said he and other Birmingham officials "triple checked" birth certificates, said Thomas knew about the activities, but did nothing. Colson said, "It was something that really shocked me."
Charlotte volleyball coach Bettie Barry, whose team was credited with a first-round victory after Birmingham withdrew, expressed disbelief. "It seems kind of ridiculous, doesn't it?" she said. "Winning isn't that important."
Colson said the team needed six players to compete, but after the two disqualifications and an injury to another player, it had to forfeit. He said the team could have won a medal. "I'm just glad we were the ones who caught it and that we did it before competition began," he said. "I shudder to think what would have happened if we didn't."
Youth Games Executive Director Marilyn Crawford and national games coordinator Amos Thornton said they were not immediately told of the incident. Crawford, saying she was "appalled," added, "People have got to learn not to lose focus of what the games are about."
Colson said he discovered the false identities after one of the two athletes signed for a room key with his real name. "They were real smart up until then," he said. "I said, 'Who in the world is this?' " Later, Colson said he heard the players calling each other by their real names.
At first, Thomas denied that the players were ineligible, but later admitted it, Colson said. She volunteered to forego her $1,250 salary, but Colson said he gave her half of it.
Colson said he believes other members of Birmingham's volleyball team "had an inkling" about the facts. The team is still in Washington -- it went on one of several tours of the city yesterday -- but aren't terribly happy with the situation, Colson said.
"I said, 'I don't expect you to like this, but I think you'll realize in a few years that we did the right thing.' "