Urbana High forced into forfeit by ineligible player

By The Associated Press

URBANA, Ill.-Urbana High School’s football team watched a last-second, season-opening win turn into a forfeit this week because the player who kicked the game-winning points was not eligible to play.

The Tigers defeated Danville 35-34 on Michael Beckwith’s field goal as time expired last Friday. But Beckwith was ineligible to participate in the game because he had not met minimum practice-time requirements, the Illinois High School Association said.

“I’ve got mixed emotions about it because I think it’s probably something that happens across the state and never gets caught,” said Danville coach B.J. Luke. “This kid’s a hero and you find out by him being the hero and that’s a shame.”

IHSA rules require football players to participate in 12 days of practice for 90 minutes each day before they are eligible to play in a game.

Beckwith, who also plays on Urbana’s soccer team, practiced with his football teammates from Aug. 9-13, but had been practicing with the soccer squad since Aug. 14, football coach Steve Waller said.

“Safetywise, you cannot ask a soccer player to go through five or six hours of double sessions in a day (for soccer) and then come over to football for an hour and a half. It’s just beside me to ask a kid to do that,” Waller said.

Waller said his team’s situation is not unique.

“I guarantee there’s not one single soccer kid in this state right now that has 12 days of football practice,” he said. “There’s no way.”

Dave Gannaway, the IHSA’s administrator for football, said the rule hasn’t attracted scrutiny in the past.

The rule is in place to ensure that players are in proper physical condition to play football and has been reviewed by the organization’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

“It’s a whole different conditioning than any other sport and they feel there needs to be a minimum acclimation period relative to somebody stepping in,” Gannaway said. “I doubt if that would change, although they do go back and review it frequently.”

Luke, the Danville coach, said he kept his soccer-playing kicker out of Friday’s game because he knew the player didn’t have the required number of practice days.

“This is just going to be a wake-up call and an eye-opener to everybody,” said Champaign Central coach Dave Jacobs, president of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association. “I’m 99 percent positive that they’re not the only team that did that.”