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Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014: Eligibility ruling knocks Aquinas out of playoffs

   Update, 6:30 p.m.: Aquinas Principal Ted Mancini, AD Anthony Bianchi and coach Chris Battaglia held a press conference this afternoon, and school officials maintained they believed they followed proper procedure.

   "We're devastated. We did nothing wrong," Aquinas president Michael Daley told the Democrat and Chronicle. "We followed the guidance prescribed to us by the chairman of Section 5 football (former Aquinas AD Dick Cerone). We asked him in early October what the clearance procedure was for an injured athlete returning."

   Mancini said school officials had consulted with their legal counsel, but as of 5 p.m. was not able to say if court papers had been filed.

   You can read the Democrat and Chronicle's updated story here.

   Update, 5:55 p.m.: Someone -- several someones, actually -- asked the question, and I do not have an answer other than to say "it's always been three games."

   That's in reference to the NYSPHSAA rule cited below, where the same paragraph says the minimum threshold for an "eligible participant" is either three games or six. That's a minor issue at best, but it's somehow become one of the more popular questions landing in my inbox this afternoon.

   Leading off today: Section 5 has ruled Aquinas must forfeit its weekend football victory over Pittsford, knocking the defending NYSPHSAA Class AA champions out of the postseason, it was announced Tuesday.

   The forfeit ruling is the result of the Little Irish using an ineligible player -- junior quarterback Jake Zembiec, the NYSSWA 2013 Class AA player of the year. Zembiec was injured in a Week 2 loss at Canisius and remained sidelined until Saturday night, when he returned to help Aquinas beat Pittsford 37-20 in the Section 5 quarterfinals.

   Under New York State Public High School Athletic Association rules, a player must be an eligible participant in three regular-season football games in order to play in the postseason.

   Barring a successful appeal, Aquinas ends its season with a 5-3 record and Pittsford advanced to the sectional semifinals vs. Rush-Henrietta.

   Here is the announcement from Section 5 Executive Director Ed Stores:

   ROCHESTER, NY -- As a result of a decision of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Section V Executive Committee this morning, the Aquinas High School football team must forfeit their October 25th game against Pittsford Central School District for using an ineligible player who did not meet the representation rule.

   The NYSPHSAA representation rule, included in the NYSPHSAA Handbook, states that a player must be an eligible participant in three regular season football games in order to participate in the postseason. The student in question was determined not to be an eligible participant for three regular season football games; furthermore no waiver was requested of the Section.

   Ed Stores, the Section V Executive Director for the past 17 years, said "This is certainly an unfortunate situation, however Section V is charged with enforcing the rules and regulations which are voted upon and approved by the membership. The representation rule is clear that a student must be an eligible participant for three regular season football games in order to play in the postseason."

   Pittsford Central School District will advance in the Section V playoffs on Saturday, November 1st against Rush-Henrietta. football site

   "I've got nothing to say right now," Aquinas coach Chris Battaglia told the Democrat and Chronicle. "I've got to go meet with my kids and I'm talking to Jake right now. That's all I care about."

   Pittsford athletic director Scott Barker also declined comment to the paper.

   Zembiec was 6-for-16 for 179 yards and two touchdown passes in the weekend win over Pittsford, which was suspended Saturday by lightning and completed the following day at Aquinas.

   The representation rule applicable to the case is spelled out in the NYSPHSAA handbook:

   A contestant, or athletic team shall not represent a school except in conformance with all rules and regulations. Is shall be the duty of trustees and boards of education to require that athletic activities be limited to competition between secondary school students.

   To be eligible for sectional, intersectional or state competition, at team must have completed in six (6) school schedules contests which occurred on six (6) different dates during the season.

   Team Sports: For the sports of baseball, basketball , field hockey, football, ice hockey lacrosse, soccer, softball and volleyball an individual is eligible for the team if he/she has been an eligible participant on a team in that sport in that school for a minimum of six (6) scheduled contests during the regular season. For football, a stude nt must be an eligible participant for a minimum of three (3) contests.

   Team/Individual and Individual Sports: For the sports of archery, badminton, bowling, cross country, fencing, golf, gymnastics, rifle, skiing, swimming, tennis, outdoor track, winter track and wrestling an individual must also have represented their school in six (6) scheduled contests during the season to be eligible. These required contests must occur on six (6) different dates and must be conducted prior to the conclusion of the team 's regular schedule.

   Section Athletic Councils may request in writing approval of the State Executive Committee to adjust the number of school schedules contests required on an annual basis. The request is to be submitted prior to the governing board me eting. School districts may submit a written request to the Section for adjustment of contests for individual participant based on medical documentation that confirms the individual was not able to particiapte in the required number of contests. NOTE: For the sports of golf and girls gymnastics, a waiver of the Representation Standard may be granted by the NYSPHSAA Executive Director when a student has qualified for participation in the current school year's NYSPHSAA Championship event and has subsequently transferred to a NYSPHSAA member school. The athlete must meet all other eligibility standards, including transfer, to receive the waiver.

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