The varsity hockey team at Cambridge Rindge and Latin has been told it must forfeit all but one of its five victories this season because an ineligible student was allowed to play.
The student, whose name has not been released, needed a waiver of what is referred to as the “five-year rule” in which a student’s eligibility to play high school sports expires four years after he or she graduates from the 8th grade, according to MIAA spokesman Paul Wetzel.
But Maryann Cappello, the athletic director for Cambridge Public Schools, said she did not file the waiver application by the Dec. 15 deadline because she became seriously ill on Dec. 13 and was then hospitalized for six days.
By the time Cappello filed the waiver application in January, the student had played in four of the team’s five victories and the MIAA ruled the school had to forfeit those games. The school received word Friday that an appeal of the decision had been denied.
“It’s not their fault,” Cappello said of the team, which has a 5-10 record. “They went out there and they played. It’s on administration, it’s on me. It should have been in on the 15th. I was sick and I wasn’t able to do it.”
Peter Cohen, whose son Byron Cohen is a captain of the hockey team, said forfeiting the games ruins any chance the team has of making the state playoffs this year, and it could also affect individual achievements, such as being one of the top goal scorers in the league.
Cohen wrote a letter to Rindge and Latin School Interim Principal Damon Smith Tuesday asking that the school petition the MIAA on behalf of the hockey team so the games wouldn’t have to be forfeited.
“We feel strongly that the students should not be penalized due to an error that was soley the responsibility of [Cambridge Rindge and Latin School] administration,” Cohen wrote.
Smith did not return a respond to a request for comment Friday, but Cappello said the school did appeal the ruling this week, and was informed this morning that the decision was final.
Wetzel said the MIAA allowed Rindge and Latin to file a late application for the student’s waiver because of Cappello’s illness. But Wetzel said the MIAA did not find there was sufficient reason to grant the request for the fifth-year waiver, and the hockey team must still forfeit any victories in which the ineligible student played.
“It’s over,” Wetzel said of the chances the decision could be overturned.
Cappello said she had become seriously ill in December and had spent time in intensive care before she returned to work on a part-time basis in early January. She said she was trying to catch up with a backlog of work when she returned, and did not remember to file the waiver until she got a call from a guidance counselor.
By then, Cappello said the student’s second quarter grades had been issued and he was no longer academically eligible to be on the team, either.
Prior to his second quarter grades being issued, the student did have the grades to play, Cappello said. But without the waiver for the five-year rule, the student still wasn’t eligible to play, she said.
The team’s first game was Dec. 17, and Cappello said the ineligible student played in a total of 10 games.
Wetzel said the MIAA typically receives about 100 applications per year for waivers of the five-year rule. He said many of the waivers are approved, but he said he would not call the waivers “routine.”
He said Cambridge must now send notice of the forfeits to the teams it beat while fielding the ineligible player.
Cappello said that despite its 5-10 record, the hockey team had still been hoping that it could rally and make the playoffs.
“I feel really, really bad about the situation,” she said.
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