Amherst forfeits eight games
Judge turns down injunction request
By Greg Seubert
Amherst High School has forfeited eight football games – including six Central Wisconsin Conference-Large wins – this season and will miss the WIAA playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The WIAA Board of Control voted 9-0 Oct. 13 to uphold its decision earlier in the week that the program must forfeit the games after the Stevens Point-based association, which oversees high school athletics in Wisconsin, received an anonymous tip over the weekend that the Falcons’ roster included a player who had used up his athletic eligibility.
WIAA communications director Todd Clark provided the Waupaca County Post with the following statement Oct. 14:
“The WIAA executive office can confirm that Amherst is required by membership rule to forfeit its first eight games scheduled during the 2022 football season for the use of an ineligible student-athlete. We recognize that this is an unfortunate situation for all involved and we share in everyone’s disappointment with the circumstances; however, the WIAA has the responsibility to uphold the integrity of the rules of education-based athletics as established by the member schools.”
Playeer exhausted WIAA eligibility
According to an announcement posted on the Tomorrow River School District’s Facebook page Oct. 13, the WIAA ruled that “an Amherst football player had previously exhausted his athletic eligibility because he participated in football at a different school district in 2018.”
“We are extremely disappointed by this unreasonable ruling from the WIAA,” District Administrator Mike Richie said. “The facts in this case make it clear that none of the WIAA processes in place at the time would have allowed us to discover this situation.
“As a result, the WIAA is unfairly harming our district, our student-athletes and our entire community,” he added. “We did everything in our power to attempt to get this unfair decision reversed.”
The district also decided against seeking a temporary restraining order on advice from legal counsel.
However, Falcon Strong, a group of community members, set up a Go Fund Me page set up Oct. 14 to help fund the initial costs of a temporary injunction that would have overturned the forfeits and qualified the Falcons for the playoffs.
Portage County Circuit Court Judge Michael Zell considered the injunction request Oct. 17, ruled in favor of the WIAA and did not issue a temporary restraining order filed against the organization.
Amherst, which won Division 5 state championships in 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2017, opened the 2022 season with nonconference losses to Clintonville and Medford.
The Falcons then won six straight CWC-Large games over Shiocton, Wittenberg-Birnamwood, Spencer/Columbus Catholic, Weyauwega-Fremont, Nekoosa and Manawa and would have played Stratford for the CWC-Large championship in the regular-season finale. That game was played Oct. 14 in Marshfield, with Amherst winning 28-21.
Played in Manawa
The WIAA received the tip shortly after the Falcons’ 49-0 win over Manawa Oct. 7.
According to the Tomorrow River School District, the player in question competed on Manawa’s freshman/junior varsity team in 2018.
The Waupaca County Post identified one player listed as a freshman on Manawa’s 2018 football roster that is also listed as a senior on Amherst’s 2022 roster.
That athlete played for Amherst in the Falcons’ win over the Wolves in Manawa.
Manawa football coach Brad Johnson, also the Manawa School District’s athletic director, declined the Waupaca County Post’s request for a comment.
“I will not comment on this,” he wrote in an Oct. 14 email.
According to the Tomorrow River School District, WIAA officials contacted Amherst athletic director Shawn Groshek Oct. 10 and indicated the association “had received an allegation from an outside, unidentified person of an ineligible player participating on the Amherst varsity football team.”
Groshek and Amherst administrators immediately began investigating the allegation and responded with an appeal document to the WIAA on Oct. 11. The following day, the WIAA informed school officials of its decision and offered the district the opportunity to appeal to the Board of Control on Oct. 13.
School officials argued that Amherst High School was not aware of the eligibility issue and it could not have been discovered with WIAA procedures in place at the time.
“The information currently available to TRSD and shared by TRSD to WIAA in its appeal documents verifies that the student-athlete in question home-schooled in the fall of 2018 and played football for Manawa,” according to the Tomorrow River School District. “He was not enrolled in any classes in the Manawa School District. WIAA regulations state that a student-athlete may not compete in WIAA sports for more than four consecutive years. As such, this would have meant that the 2021-22 school year would have been the final year of eligibility for this student.”
Neither Groshek or school administrators were aware of the student’s Manawa football participation until the WIAA informed them on Oct. 10.
Enrolled in Stevens Point Christian Academy
The student enrolled at Stevens Point Christian Academy for the 2019-20 school year as a freshman, according to his cumulative file records at the Tomorrow River School District.
Amherst school officials indicated the information they have on file from Stevens Point Christian Academy shows the student did not play any sports as a freshman at the school, which is not affiliated with the WIAA.
His cumulative file paperwork from Stevens Point Christian Academy states the following: “Came to SPCA in the fall of 2019 from home schooling. No other records available.”
The student then open-enrolled at Amherst High School in 2020 as a sophomore.
He did not compete in football during his sophomore year, but did play on Amherst’s boys’ co-op soccer team. He joined the football team in 2021 as a junior.