'Administrative mistake' costs Chugiak football three wins

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 20:00

Chugiak football coach Duncan Shackelford had to inform his team last week that the Mustangs varsity would have to forfeit all three of its wins from earlier this season due to the use of an ineligible player.

Coach Shack said he told the team about the situation before practice on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

“Toughest 10 minutes of my life,” Shackelford said.

Counting Saturday’s win over West, the Mustangs are now officially 1-6 overall and 1-5 in the Cook Inlet Conference and are no longer in the playoff race.

At first, Chugiak’s players were in shock over the announcement.

“They took it really tough,” Shackelford said.

The head coach said the player in question, kicker Craig Lowe, is home-schooled, but that the coaching staff was led to believe he was eligible to play under Alaska School Activities Association rules. Not so.

“It was an administrative mistake,” Shackelford said.

Chugiak will still its remaining two games, including Friday’s 7 p.m. game against West at Anchorage Football Stadium.

On Monday, Alaska School Activities Association executive director Gary Matthews said the eligibility rules are clear — as are the sanctions.

“I didn’t have any options,” he said.

Matthews said Chugiak has informed his office that the school plans to appeal the ruling. That appeal will be held at ASAA’s upcoming board meeting on Sunday and Monday at the Hilton Hotel in Anchorage.

Chugiak principal Sam Spinella said the school’s activities principal, Kevin Theonnes, called him on Wednesday, Sept. 21 and informed him there was a problem with the eligibility senior Craig Lowe, who lives in the area but is homeschooled through the IDEA (Interior Distance Education of Alaska) program. Because that program is based in Galena — and not in the Anchorage School District — students in that program are not eligible to play for ASD schools under ASAA rules.

“It’s unfortunate,” Spinella said.

Theonnes said he couldn’t comment on the situation.

Derek Hagler, the school district’s high school supervisor, said the situation was an unfortunate one.

“Unfortunately, human errors do occur,” he said.

Hagler said the district is reviewing how eligibility paperwork is handled in the future to make sure a similar situation doesn’t occur again.

“We’re reviewing all of our policies and procedures,” he said.

Hagler said he couldn’t comment on whether any disciplinary action will be taken in the matter.

Chugiak players said they felt robbed after hearing the news.

Despite the setback, Lowe was still on the sidelines during Chugiak’s triumphant win over West, serving as a ball boy for the team and helping to cheer the Mustangs on to victory.

Shackelford said he was proud of his players for embracing Lowe after the unfortunate situtation.

“He’s one of them, they wanted him to be there,” Shackelford said.

The coach stressed that the ineligibility came through no fault of the player, and with no ill intentions on the part of the school or the coaching staff.

What was perhaps most distressing, he said, was that Lowe had to get caught up in the middle of things.

“He’s just a great kid, an outstanding kid,” Shackelford said.

Although they’re appealing the ruling, Shackelford said he doesn’t think there’s much of a chance of Chugiak getting its three lost games back.

“Not going to happen,” he said.

One Chugiak fan showed her displeasure by holding up a hand-painted sign during the West game.

“Don’t let our administration ruin our reputation,” it read.

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