LIBERTY Liberty High School administration removed an ineligible player from the varsity basketball team Wednesday and forfeited four victories in accordance with NYSPHSAA (New York State Public High School Athletic Association) regulations.
The unnamed player was a senior reserve who had first enrolled but did not play for Liberty as a freshman in 2007-2008. He was now playing in the fifth year since he became eligible to compete and state high school laws grant a student only four consecutive years of eligibility in a particular sport commencing with the student’s enrollment in the ninth grade.
There are some exceptions to the rule involving illness, accidents and other circumstances beyond the control of the student, which apparently were not in effect in this situation.
The violation was discovered during a standard review of athlete’s files a day after Liberty trounced Sullivan West in an Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA), Division IV game. Liberty administrators wasted no time in contacting Section IX and OCIAA, acutely aware of the controversy embroiling Newburgh Free Academy since it allowed players who allegedly skipped hundreds of classes to compete.
“It is very unfortunate for both the student and the team, but there really was no other choice,” said Liberty superintendent Michael Vanyo, admitting that the well-publicized problems of other schools forced immediate action.
Said recently appointed athletic director Andy Buchsbaum: “Academic eligibility is a top priority for our student-athletes. This was a unique and complicated situation. It has been hard on everyone, but we expect our athletes to play by the rules, and we, as a district need to as well.
“We’re disappointed, of course, but know it was the right thing to do.”
Technically, Liberty must forfeit all its games, but since it lost three of those games, the net effect is the reversal of four victories, dropping the Indians’ overall record to 0-7. Liberty fans will remember when its undefeated team in the early 1970s was forced to forfeit virtually the entire season because of an ineligible player.