CLEVELAND - When it comes to a court ruling on who should be in the state high school football playoffs, the mission of education was left on the outside looking in.
Cleveland Heights tried to convince the courts that a forfeit by JFK should be recognized by the state as a loss. A JFK player participated when he did not meet Cleveland Metropolitan School District academic eligibility standards. But he did meet Ohio High School Athletic Association standards.
Heights gained an injunction, only to have it turned around in just 24 hours.
Cleveland Heights had a chance to make the playoffs. They lost to Euclid, and then lost to Warren Harding. They didn't win those games. That is why Heights is not in the playoffs. Not because of a court ruling.
Should Heights have made more noise and asked the state when the question of the forfeit actually happened? Maybe.
But, what is wrong here is the system. It's a system that needed to be challenged for all the right reasons. Now it needs to be changed.
If JFK reported a game as a forfeit then than it is what it is. A forfeit is a forfeit.
For all the troubles CMSD has had over the past few years, going above and beyond to turn in one of its athletic teams for not meeting an academic standard is noteworthy of praise.
If the state does not want to recognize a member school trying to do what is best for education, we have a warped idea of what is right and wrong. CMSD is trying to tell the kids that if they break the rules, you have big time penalties to pay. Education comes first.
CMSD basically said to the state "Please, accept our apology for cheating. We are trying to teach our students right from wrong. We are forfeiting this game. We did not play by the rules we have established for creating good citizens. The game is a loss, end of story."
Even though the OHSAA has lower standards than CMSD, the school system is trying to teach students that right from wrong is greater than a win or a loss on the field.
I have heard the argument that the state might worry that teams might want to start forfeiting games, to help out other fellow conference members to gain playoff berths. If that is the case those schools should be kicked out of the OHSAA.
The judge in this case, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Richard McMonagle, said to the Plain Dealer, "Someone was going to get hurt, and unfortunately, it was Cleveland Heights. This had to stop," McMonagle said. "I was right the first time, and I was right this time. That was the right thing to do."
As crazy as that sounds, he is right. He was right that the state should have recognized it was a forfeit. The OHSAA needs to recognize that not accepting the forfeit goes against the common goal of all its member institutions - to educate first. But, rather than holding back the system, the judge was right to put this story to bed.
The state might have wanted this to happen without a fight, because this is the way they have done things for the last hundred years. They need to wake up and realize they need to fix the loophole. Nobody wants to go through this again.