UPDATE: Player transfer resulted in PHS forfeit of 2023 season victories

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 11:11 AM CST
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UPDATE (8:44 p.m.) - A player attempting to transfer to another school led to IHSA officials getting tipped off that two players should not have been eligible for Peoria High School sports. Now all seven of their wins have been forfeited.

The school will go from a 7-3 record to 0-10 for the year, forfeiting their victories against Danville, Urbana, Manual, Richwoods, and Bloomington High Schools, as well as Normal Community West and Peoria Notre Dame.

Two players were found to be ineligible due to issues with their legal guardianship. No details were released on the specifics of the situation, including who the students are. IHSA said they have specific requirements for residency and guardianship within a school district to prevent players from “living with a friend” to qualify for a more attractive sports program.

Sometimes, IHSA said, the association’s residency requirements can be more strict than the school district’s. It’s not clear if that’s the case here. PHS Athletics Director Brien Dunphy took full responsibility for the administrative error, saying it was his job to make sure students were properly eligible.

“Verifying eligibility is one of the challenges of the athletic director, verifying eligibility has gotten increasingly difficult due to students believing the transfer portal is open, and doubly difficult at a school with very high student mobility,” he said in a press conference Thursday morning.

Superintendent Dr Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat was also present at the press conference.

The district has not made any on-camera comments about two shooting incidents at Manual High School, one where a student was shot in the leg on his way to school and another where the building was hit by gunfire. The 16-year-old suspect in those shootings, Jimichael Brown, will be charged as an adult in felony court.

IHSA said after reviewing the game statistics, they found one of the two players played a large role in the seven victories secured by the team, resulting in the forfeiture ruling. The second player did not receive as much game time. Both players are officially ineligible.

PHS advanced to playoffs this season but lost in the first round. It’s not clear if this change in the record would have allowed another school to take PHS’ place.

“This ruling in no way is a reflection of our Peoria High coaches. Coaches coach kids, this is an administrative error,” Dunphy said.

The Lions are now on probation for a year, meaning IHSA will be watching for any further issues with student eligibility. If PHS commits another infraction, the penalties could be harsher, but a spokesperson for IHSA said those penalties would be decided and administered by the group’s executive director.

“It sends a strong message that we have to be more careful with transfers and eligibility and that sort of this,” Desmoulin Kherat said.

IHSA said they deal with student ineligibility issues that result in forfeiture at least once or twice a year, but rarely to the extent where a whole season is lost. The player’s individual stats will not be impacted.

PEORIA (25News Now) - The Peoria High Lions have forfeited seven football games they won during the 2023 football season after the Illinois High School Association ruled two players ineligible.

The announcement was made during a press conference Thursday at the Peoria Public Schools Administration office.

During Thursday’s press conference, Peoria High School Athletic Director Brien Dunphy said the issue was over legal guardianship.

Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin Kherat added the team will be on probation for next year, but did not know what that meant.

Team statistics for this season will not change.

In a statement to 25News, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said,

“I issued a ruling on November 15, 2023, on behalf of the IHSA that the Peoria High School football team must forfeit its seven victories from the 2023 season due to use of an ineligible player in those contests (violating IHSA By-laws 6.010 & 6.021). It is disappointing any time that we must issue forfeits, but it remains imperative that IHSA member schools adhere to the Association’s by-laws. My experiences with the Peoria High School administration and athletic department have always been positive, and I believe they have taken this matter very seriously and are taking steps to ensure that a similar situation does not unfold again in the future. We will support them in those efforts in any way that we can moving forward.”

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson

This story will be updated....