The Lone Peak High School football team is the defending 6A football state champions and they have also forfeited all but one of their football games this season as a penalty for playing an ineligible player. This decision was made by a UHSAA (Utah High School Activities Association) panel on Wednesday, October 16.
The unanimous decision (5-0) was delivered by a panel of principals who serve on the executive committee of the Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA). This decision means that Lone Peak, who was 5-4 is now 1-9 after winning their final region game last week against Pleasant Grove High School. Lone Peak, with the support of Alpine School District, appealed the decision but lost.
The decision means that Lone Peak will enter the state playoffs this week with a 1-9 record, it also means that the 6A playoff bracket as well as region 4 has been impacted by the final RPI rankings. Lone Peak’s forfeiture of games has resulted in the loss of points in the final RPI ranking for any opponent who played Lone Peak both in pre-season and during region play.
The decision was based on a student athlete at Lone Peak who was new to the school. A student athlete’s eligibility is tracked by required paperwork online in a system schools use called, “Register My Athlete.” This online system tracks each student athlete and their eligibility through a process of answered questions, report cards, and medical forms. The Lone Peak athlete made an error when answering one of the online questions regarding his attendance at high school. By answering incorrectly, the student’s file deemed him eligible in the system and was not flagged for eligibility-pending. The principal of Lone Peak High School was made aware of the error two weeks ago and he called region officials to report the problem.
This resulted in a review of the error by board managers of the region who decided unanimously not to impose forfeiture as a punishment. Joel Perkins, the principal of Skyridge High School is the chairman of the region board. The UHSAA then stepped in as the governing body for the state and overturned a unanimous region decision and imposed punishment to the Lone Peak High School football team.
In the past, this kind of punishment would mean the school’s football team would be ineligible for the playoffs. However, because the UHSAA changed to an RPI system that ranks teams for seeding and allows all teams to play in the playoffs, Lone Peak, who was 5-4, fell from being ranked somewhere in the No. 7 to 12 range to No. 20 in playoff seeding. For Lone Peak this means playing tougher games on the road and the loss of the opportunity to play at home.
S. Scott Carlson, President of the Alpine School District Board of Education commented, “The UHSAA has always been an organization of member schools and the member schools used to be able to determine the rules of operation in an effort to provide fair and appropriate competition. However, the legislation passed a couple years ago, and the new rules created by the state board of education at the same time removed most of the opportunity for the UHSAA to be accommodating of mistakes that occur in registration throughout the state. The Lone Peak student athlete made an error in his registration form online and the school did not catch it until a few weeks ago. I appreciate the honor demonstrated by school officials to self-report the error. And even though the region board of directors voted to ‘forgive the error’ and recognized that the ‘non-eligible player’ had a very minor role and likely did not change the outcome of any of the games, the state board of trustees had no flexibility under the legislative oversight that exists now.”
The decision has had a negative impact on Skyridge High School as they could have possibly had a no. 3 seed in the state playoffs as they beat Lone Peak high school earlier in the season. With Lone Peak’s forfeitures, the RPI placed Skyridge at a no. 4 state seed. Skyridge has had a successful season with a 7-2 overall record.
“Lone Peak will still be in the playoffs and will have the opportunity to play the games to the best of their ability and may move forward in the playoff system based on their performance. Yes, this state ruling did adjust the RPI rankings and will have a different lineup for who plays whom throughout the playoffs. Skyridge may see Lone Peak sooner in the playoffs than they might have otherwise, but the Skyridge team focus is to play in the championship game and they are planning to win against each opponent, regardless of which team comes on the first week or the last week of the playoffs,” said Carlson.
Regardless of the decision to punish Lone Peak High School and the impact that it has had on all of the opponents, the Skyridge football team is positive, focused and busy practicing for their first state playoff game scheduled for next week.
Carlson said, “Let’s cheer for Lehi and Skyridge as they perform to their best abilities each week.”
As a Lehi community, let’s support both of our high school teams in the state playoffs as they have overcome challenges and displayed champion-like qualities throughout the season.