WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) Christopher Cherry, Athletic Director and Head coach of the Men’s Basketball Team at South Central High School was recently notified of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s decision to sanction the school and coach for an ineligible player.
South Central’s appeal was denied which resulted in ten (10) of the team’s wins being vacated from their 2019-2020 season record.
Prior to the decision, the reigning State Champion South Central Falcons were leading the conference and poised to receive top seeding in the NCHSAA State Playoffs.
Their decision comes after Coach Cherry and administrators exhausted all other appeals.
Cherry shared his disappointment with the recent decision, “I’m at a loss for words. This doesn’t seem fair to my program, or most importantly, to my student-athlete who satisfied all of the requirements under (Pitt County & NCHSAA) for enrollment and participation in sports.”
In accordance with Pitt County School policy, the family of the player submitted documentation of their purchase agreement for a home within South Central’s attendance area.
South Central High School reviewed the family’s submissions and approved his participation in sports based on Pitt County Schools policies and standard procedures.
Unbeknownst to Coach Cherry or the administration at South Central High School, there was a delay in the family’s physical relocation due to a construction compliance issue at the new home with the United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
Despite the delay, the NCHSAA policy would still permit the player to remain eligible since the attempt to enroll was “bona fide” and “done, or presented in good faith” (NCHSAA Policy 1.2.10).
The Pitt County School Board, however, determined the move was not legitimate and declared the player ineligible.
Coach Cherry was not aware that the student was not currently residing in the location within the boundary.
“I am deeply troubled that the Board ruled against this student and his family despite documentation and evidence of the extenuating circumstances in this young man’s case…the attempt to relocate to our district was valid and the delay in the loan processing was unavoidable,” said Cherry.
On January 13, South Central High School was informed by Pitt County Schools of a formal complaint that questioned the legitimacy of the player’s residency within the required boundary.
Coach Cherry immediately removed the athlete from participation and Pitt County Schools began investigating the matter.
On January 22nd, the Superintendent declared the player ineligible.
The Pitt County School Board upheld the superintendent’s earlier decision and also deemed the player ineligible for high school sports.
Pitt County Schools then reported to NCHSAA a rules violation. As a result, an appeal was also made to the NCHSAA and was denied based on the local Pitt County Schools policy.
There will be no other appeals and Coach Cherry has stated he would accept the Board’s ruling.
As South Central prepares for the first round of the NCHSAA state playoffs, Cherry encouraged his team to place their focus on the playoffs. “Our mission will be to continue to play hard and represent South Central with the highest level of sportsmanship and integrity…(We) won’t allow petty community division to take our attention away from the goal of winning another State Championship!”