Brother Martin forfeits five football victories due to ineligible players, plans emergency appeal

Sports

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Here’s the statement from the school released Tuesday morning. Parents were informed of the development at a meeting at the school Monday evening.

Ryan Gallagher’s statement:

Last week, the LHSAA sent a member of its compliance staff to school – as it does two to three times every year – to verify our rosters for fall sports to ensure that our students are registered properly with the LHSAA, that all paperwork has been submitted, and that all participating students are academically eligible.

While looking through our student files last week, the compliance staff member brought to our attention that, in his interpretation of the academic eligibility rule, one of our student-athlete’s academic performance in the 2020-2021 school year made him academically ineligible for the first semester of this school year. We were shocked to learn of this because we’ve calculated eligibility in the same consistent manner every year. We go through compliance checks multiple times each year, and in every other instance we have been green lighted by the LHSAA regarding the manner in which we compute academic eligibility. We have never had an issue or discrepancy in this area. Every compliance staff member who has visited school has never brought this to our attention. We’ve always been told that all of our student-athletes are in good academic standing.

However, as soon as the compliance officer notified us of his interpretation, we started to work with the LHSAA on this issue. In fact, we re-computed our eligibility report in the way that the LHSAA told us that they interpret the rule, and we found one other student in our school who would also be deemed academically ineligible using the LHSAA’s interpretation, and we then self-reported that student to the LHSAA office.

We were trying to hide nothing, and we did not neglect any clerical work. We computed academic eligibility on all of our students consistently and have been operating in good faith and what we believe to be the spirit of the academic eligibility rule. In no way was this intentional; in fact, our standards for academic eligibility are the highest that they can possibly be. Our Summer Credit Recovery program is not designed in the same manner as traditional Summer School programs, which can be less stringent academically in terms of replacing failing grades. Partially due to our long-standing interpretation of the academic eligibility rule, we adopted Credit Recovery over Summer School a number of years ago. If we used the traditional Summer School model combined with the LHSAA’s interpretation of the academic eligibility rule, both of these student-athletes would be academically eligible.

As a result of all of this, the LHSAA has notified us that at the moment we must forfeit our first 5 victories of the season and that our two student-athletes are academically ineligible and will be suspended from play possibly into next season.

We are disappointed for our football team and for our school community.

Fortunately, we are still the same program with the same young men who have run out to an undefeated season. All of the tangible goals that this team has in its sights are still attainable. Our goal to win the state championship is still very much within our grasp. Our road will probably be tougher, but these young men under the leadership of Mark Bonis and his staff will find a way to overcome obstacles just as they always have.

We are currently exploring all of our options as it pertains to the appeals process as we advocate for our students, and we are working with the LHSAA in this regard. As of this morning, we have requested an Emergency Appeal Hearing, and we are hopeful that this request will be granted.

Brother Martin High School has been following a consistent way to determine eligibility which was approved in previous years by LHSAA compliance staff members as they made their annual reviews. Hopefully, our attempt at the appeal process will produce a more favorable outcome.

Regardless of the outcome, we are going to do everything within our control to take care of our students at Brother Martin.

Ryan Gallagher

Mark Bonis’s statement:

Obviously at this time, I hurt deeply for all of our players, support staff, and coaches of the 2021 football team. I can assure you that our players, my staff, and I will forge ahead with a new vigor of living the principles that are at the foundation of our football program. With all of the things that have happened to me personally over the last three years, one thing that I have learned is to be truly thankful for both blessings and adversity. As a man of faith, I believe with the right approach that success can arise in the face of adversity. Regardless of the outcome, I look forward to the opportunity that our young men have to showcase their God-given gifts of resiliency and toughness.

Mark Bonis

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