The Indiana High School Athletic Association is currently investigating an unusual eligibility issue for Washington High School that could cause the Panthers to forfeit all of their football games from 2010 and a conference championship in boys basketball.
Multiple sources tell NewsCenter 16 the issue involves former Panther Football and Basketball standout Darius Hardin. Hardin is currently at Grand Valley State University after he graduated from Washington in May.
ISHAA rules state students are eligible to play for eight consecutive semesters after beginning high school, which would make Hardin's 2010 football season ineligible.
Hardin's high school eligibility is in question because he was in high school for five years, something a source says Washington did not realize.
According to the source, Hardin attended his freshman and sophomore years of high school in Milwaukee, but his mom was having personal issues and Hardin himself was in a gang. Hardin was expelled from school.
He transferred to Washington in 2008 where he did not play athletics his first year. Hardin’s records were never fully obtained from his previous school, according to the source by the Washington Guidance Department and he entered Washington as a sophomore.
By the time Hardin began playing football a year later as a junior, athletics was going off the records from guidance---and thought everything was in order.
Washington football coach Antwon Jones helped Harden turn his life around and added him to the football team. Hardin went on to play two successful seasons for the Panthers and received a scholarship from Grand Valley State.
Grand Valley State said Friday, Hardin was ruled a partial qualifier and is ineligible to play football for the Lakers this season. Hardin's first few years of high school led to his grades being below the standards to meet NCAA requirements. The NCAA only looks at a student's first four years in high school to earn a scholarship and to play, meaning his success during his senior year at Washington doesn't count.
Hardin is in good standing at the Grand Valley and will be on scholarship next season. Being in high school for five years has nothing to do with Hardin's collegiate eligibility, a Grand Valley State official says. The grades and SAT scores are the issue on the college front.
Five years in high school only puts in question the high school eligibility. Washington found out about the issue from the NCAA and Grand Valley State.
IHSAA Commissioner Bobby Cox told NewsCenter 16 Friday Washington officials self-reported the concerns and traveled to Indianapolis three weeks ago to discuss the case in person once they learned the news.
Cox said the IHSAA is still reviewing the case and it will be on the agenda for the Executive Committee meeting next Thursday. It is highly unusual for the IHSAA to wait that long to make a ruling, making it appear officials are taking a closer look at the unique circumstances.
If the IHSAA rules against Washington all the football games from last season would be forfeited. Hardin also played in enough basketball games that it would cost the Panthers the Northern Indiana Conference Championship. If the ISHAA rules against Washington, Marian High School and Riley High School would be co basketball champions.
Another source however says he was aware before last season that Hardin was entering his 5th year of high school. So he can't understand how Washington wouldn't know.
Despite the risk of forfeiting a championship and its 2010 football record, a source within the South Bend Community School Corporation said "this was worth it” because even if the Panthers are forced to forfeit games, the actions the school took helped ensure Hardin graduated from high school and was put on the right track in life.
Washington said they cannot comment on camera because they do not want jeopardize the IHSAA investigation.
Washington hosts Clay High School Friday night at 7pm at School Field.