Following a weeks-long investigation, CIAC has spoken. The state’s ruling body for Connecticut High School athletics announced had accepted Berlin’s self-report and dropped a sledgehammer on school’s football program.
Berlin’s football team will forfeit all seven of its victories for the use of ineligible players, four in total. It is prohibited from CIAC championship competition for the 2015 season.
“We take this very seriously,” CIAC Executive Director Karissa Niehoff told the New Britain Herald. “This is the highest level of violations. It undermines the whole notion of academic-athletics. …We continuously remind our schools about the eligibility of players. Any player that is recruited is ineligible.”
New Britain Herald: Berlin football program sacked by CIAC, forfeits all victories this season
In addition to forfeiting games, the CIAC also levied a $4,000 fine, $1,000 for each ineligible player. Those players are now permanently ineligible from any CIAC sanctioned sport if they continue to attend Berlin.
The ineligible players are also being forced to sit out the remainder of the school year in any sport, should they transfer to another school. They also must sit out 50 percent of the 2016 fall season at whichever school they might transfer.
According to reports, Friday’s game — The Wishbone Bowl — between the schools is still on as scheduled. Berlin superintendent of schools David Erwin told The Herald it had yet to be determined if head coach John Capodice would coach the team in its final game. The CIAC defers personnel decisions to its member schools and can only advise them.
Erwin told the Herald he would make a decision once he sees the final report. Berlin’s football team, with Capodice at the helm, practiced at the school Wednesday evening.
“I’m disappointed for our students who were playing on the field,” Erwin told the Herald. “It hurts us, forfeiting the games this year. But it hurts the kids. My concern is for our players.”
Berlin dropped from 7-2 to 0-9, affecting every team in Class M and any team that played Berlin this season. It helped some teams and harmed others.
In Class M, East Haven can now reach the state playoffs for the first time with a victory over Branford. Hyde, Foran and especially Stratford, saw their chances improve significantly with Berlin dropping out of the race.
In Class L, meanwhile, Avon lost an aggregate 20 bonus points for beating Berlin this season. [Updated] The Falcons can still qualify if they beat Simsbury and Windsor beats Middletown, but it would come down to a bonus points race to outpoint Middletown. (More on this later)
In Class S, Bloomfield moved up and can clinch the No. 2 seed with a victory over Fermi. But the Warhawks are also being looked at by the CIAC over the eligibility of QB Rayshawn Phillips.
East Catholic improved to 7-2 with the victories and has a chance to qualify for the Class S playoffs with a victory over Northwest Catholic. They also lost to Bloomfield, so the Eagles will be monitoring that situation as well.
Woodland, which was jumped by East Catholic, now must beat Seymour and hope enough works out in its favor to qualify.
Capital Prep will be in the running should it win its final game vs. Cheney Tech, but would have to get help to outpoint East Catholic and Rocky Hill if they both win.
Here’s the full release from CIAC:
CHESHIRE, Conn. – The CIAC Board of Control voted in a meeting Wednesday afternoon to accept a self-report from Berlin High School for violations of CIAC rules by its football program.
The self-report, which was aided by an independent investigation, was for use of ineligible players and recruitment.
Per CIAC by-laws the following sanctions were approved by the Board of Control and accepted by the school.
• Forfeiture of all football victories this season in which any ineligible player participated.
• Prohibition from CIAC Championship competition for the football program for the 2015 season.
• Probation for one year for the football program (CIAC probation is defined as a period of trial during which the school is monitored to determine compliance with requirements of CIAC regulations.
• The school is fined $4,000 ($1,000 for each ineligible player).
• The ineligible athletes will be permanently ineligible to participate in athletic competition if they remain at Berlin high school.
• If the ineligible students transfer to another CIAC member school they will be ineligible to participate in athletic competition for the remainder of the 2015-16 school year and 50% of the 2016 fall season.