OSSAA rules Ringling player ineligible; Team will likely be allowed to play in title game

The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association on Tuesday evening ruled a Ringling football player ineligible for the Class A state championship game, but Ringling will most likely be allowed to play in Thursday's championship against Hollis.
by Jacob Unruh Published: December 17, 2013
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photo - Ringling players celebrate with the championship trophy. #33 is Allen Patrick. #23 is Joe Hill. Ringling Blue Devils defeated Wynnewood, Savages 39-12  in the  Class A High School football championship game at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater on Saturday,  Dec. 8, 2012.  Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman
Ringling players celebrate with the championship trophy. #33 is Allen Patrick. #23 is Joe Hill. Ringling Blue Devils defeated Wynnewood, Savages 39-12 in the Class A High School football championship game at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

Ringling still has a chance to win its second straight Class A football championship.

One day after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association ruled senior Ryan Lester ineligible but kept the top-ranked Blue Devils in the title game, Ringling dropped its planned appeal Wednesday morning.

The decision keeps the top-ranked Blue Devils facing No. 2 Hollis at 7 p.m. Thursday in Cache.

But they will be without Lester, a wide receiver and defensive back who will be on the sideline but not in a jersey.

“The cloud’s lifted,” Ringling superintendent Rick Hatfield said. “We feel bad for Ryan and we hate to see that happen, but he’s going to be there to cheer us on.

“At least with the cloud lifted, we’re going to go ahead and play, and that helps.”

OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley said the plan remains to revisit the issue in January, where it’s possible more sanctions could be posed to the school, but he has no plans to recommend forfeitures or financial restitution.

That alone is a change for the OSSAA, which in the past has suspended coaches, forced teams to forfeit games and even imposed financial penalties on schools for similar violations.

“It’s kind of been a shift in our philosophy a little bit,” Sheakley said. “In this situation, we’ve got a bunch of kids involved who have worked hard to get to this point and we just felt the penalty didn’t fit the situation when taking everything into account.”

Sheakley said the timeliness of the issue was a huge factor in the staff’s decision.

The OSSAA received an anonymous letter early last week alerting it of an ineligible player at Ringling. The OSSAA immediately opened an investigation, where it was discovered that Lester repeated the eighth grade after attending Zaneis Public Schools in Wilson. He did not sit out the required year in accordance with Rule 7 of the organization’s rule book.

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by Jacob Unruh
Reporter
Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the...
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