MIDVALE — Under the new RPI-based ranking and postseason tournament-seeding format presented this year by the Utah High School Activities Association, Lone Peak’s season-long forfeiture for the use of an ineligible player won’t cost the Knights a spot in the Class 6A state playoffs.
But it will cost the Knights a season’s worth of wins.
The unanimous decision (5-0) by a board of principals that serve on the executive committee of the state’s governing body for high school sports ruled that Lone Peak violated rules pertaining to the eligibility of one of its student-athletes. The decision immediately drops the Knights from 5-4 to 0-9, including an 0-4 mark in Region 4 play before its regular-season finale Wednesday night at Pleasant Grove (7-2, 2-2 Region 4).
The Deseret News was the first to report the decision following an executive board meeting at the state association's headquarters in Midvale.
But because every team in the state’s top classification qualifies for the playoffs, the defending 6A state champions’ eligibility won’t be dinged.
The UHSAA will release the final RPI ratings and playoff seeds Saturday at 9 a.m. MDT.
“We’re all susceptible,” panel chair and Brighton High principal Tom Sherwood told the Deseret News. “It’s messy, and it’s going to be a really difficult decision. I’ve sat in your chair, and we don’t think there was malintent, and no one thinks anything less of you or your staff, and especially the young man.”
Alpine School District said through a spokesperson that Lone Peak and the district plan to appeal the decision, but UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner said the appeal must be completed before Saturday morning’s final RPI rating deadline.
Without any change via the appeals process, the Knights are unlikely to receive a first- or second-round home game in the playoffs, and certainly won’t be eligible for one of the first-round byes delivered to the top five teams in the rankings.
The school argued that the ineligibility stemmed from a transfer student — one not from the state of Utah, the Knights add — who moved to the Highland/Alpine area over the summer. When the student approached a Lone Peak coach about playing football, the coach — who does not work on campus — assigned him to the state’s database of student-athletes through RegisterMyAthlete.com.
Because he was not transferring from an in-state school, the student did not register as a transfer student, though. When the mistake was discovered, the school argued, they immediately notified the requisite region and state boards — which triggered the process towards Wednesday’s ruling.
“Alpine School District is greatly disappointed to learn that UHSAA has overturned a unanimous Region 4 decision to penalize the Lone Peak High School football team, regarding a clerical error that was discovered on ‘Register My Athlete,’” district spokesperson Kimberly Bird said. “The error was caught last week by the school administration and immediately reported by the Region 4 chair. This type of overturning of a decision, by the UHSAA, over an honest mistake on one question for one student, should have a consequence that matches the error.”
Prior to the decision, Lone Peak had lost three in a row to Corner Canyon, Skyridge and longtime rival American Fork.