UPDATE: IHSAA penalizes Washington H.S. in two different cases

By: Angelo Di Carlo and Kevin Lewis Email
By: Angelo Di Carlo and Kevin Lewis Email

South Bend Washington High School announced on Thursday the penalties that will be enforced against the school by the IHSAA in two different cases.

One case centers on former girls basketball player Jasmine Watson. Washington must pay back restitution earned from the Panthers run to the state finals that season.

Washington must give back $9,571.51 from money earned during the tournament run. That money comes from sectional, regional and semi-state games the Panthers won. The money now goes to Penn, Clay, Michigan City, Elkhart Memorial and Pendleton Heights. Washington Athletic Director Chris Matthys described the payment as "significant but not crippling." It will come directly out of Washington's athletic budget and the Panthers can pay over time.

The program will also be on probation for this season. They will not have to forfeit any games from that season.

"For the IHSAA to allow that team, who's accomplishments did not hinge solely on one player, to allow that to stand, I think again was a very fair thing for the commissioner to do,” Matthys added.

The other involves now graduated football player Darius Hardin. Washington must forfeit wins from the 2010 season after it came to light that Hardin had been in high school for five years. Even though Hardin only played sports for two years, it remains an IHSAA violation.

Washington contends they were unaware Hardin had been in school five years and there were some clerical errors with his paperwork. Washington says until the NCAA Eligibility Center informed them of the situation last month, they did not know Hardin had been in high school that long.

"It would have taken far beyond a normal effort, almost a super effort for anyone to have discovered this at the time. You almost would have had to take the time to look for something specific. So there were a lot of ways this got confused,” SBCSC athletic director Kirby Whitacre said.

From there, they immediately launched an investigation and brought it to the IHSAA.

"I’ve seldom seen an investigation go so quickly. By the following Wednesday, we were at the IHSAA reporting our findings in great detail,” Whitacre added.

Hardin also played in some basketball games for the Panthers — enough that Washington will have to forfeit its Northern Indiana Conference basketball title. Marian and Riley will be recognized as co-champions of the league.

The school will also forfeit some track and field events he participated in.

NewsCenter 16 broke the full story centering around Hardin last Friday. Hardin suffered from incredible hardship before arriving at Washington. The Panthers helped him turn his life around and he is now on scholarship at Grand Valley State for next year.

There is much more to this complicated case. You can read about it in depth clicking here.

Individual stats are not affected by the decision. Despite the forfeiting of football games from the 2010 season, Gehrig Dieter's statistics from that season remain intact. Dieter is closing in on many national records.

Watson’s case has dragged on for nearly three years going back to 2008.

Washington will not have to forfeit any games from that season and will still be recognized as the state runners-up. Current Notre Dame star Skylar Diggins was a senior on that team.

The IHSAA did not give Washington a choice in the penalties but Matthys says they prefer the penalty they received over the possible loss of the state runner-up season.

"Money can be raised," Matthys said; pointing out that the legacy of that class which went to four straight state championship games is not tarnished.

"The commissioner was looking for a decision different from what is normally imposed by college conferences when this happens. Usually you have to forfeit the awards and trophies and titles. So he was looking for something that wouldn't attack the tradition and history of the school,” Matthys added.

IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox has a history himself with losing a state championship in a situation like this. When Athletic Director at Carmel HS, he had to give up the state championship in swimming to Riley. He did not want to penalize Washington in that manner. Instead penalizing them financially.

Watson transferred from Elkhart Memorial to Washington for her senior year of basketball. Her family said they moved because of financial concerns, but the IHSAA said it was for athletic reasons. She was ruled ineligible for the first eight games that season, before the circuit court overturned that decision and put her back on the basketball court. (You can read more about it by clicking here.)

But in 2010, the case went before the Indiana State Supreme Court, who agreed with the IHSAA and, once again, ruled Watson ineligible. (You can read more about this by clicking here.)

Washington was in a tough position. Once they learned the IHSAA was appealing the decision, they had to choose to play Watson or not. By playing her, they opened themselves up to the ruling being overturned and the IHSAA placing penalties on them. Had they chose not to play her, they could have opened themselves up to a lawsuit from the Watson family since a court order at the time had ruled in her favor.

Watson is currently a junior in college, playing basketball at U-Mass.

"It's not going to be hard for me to move on because if I come in the morning and don't have to deal with this, it's going to be great. There is an understanding between Washington High School and the IHSAA that will definitely allow us to move on,” Whitacre concluded.

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