Undefeated Football Team Forfeits Entire Season, Fires Coaching Staff After Ineligible Player Pretended To Be Another Student In Season Opener

Cardinal Ritter
Cardinal Ritter ends football season and terminates entire coaching staff Cardinal Ritter Prep/http://www.cardinalritterprep.net/

Cardinal Ritter, a college prep school in St. Louis, has suspended its football program for the remainder of the season and has relieved the entire coaching staff of its duties after the school was forced to forfeit its 7-0 record earlier this month.

According to the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHAA), the school used an ineligible player at the start of their 2019 season.

Junior running back Bill Jackson was ruled ineligible for the first game of the 2019 season after being ejected from the school's Class 3 state championship game in 2018, according to the National Federation of State High School Association guidelines. The guidelines state that any student-athlete ejected from a game must not play in the following game, even if that game occurs the next season.

Cardinal Ritter faced Nazareth to open the season on August 31. During the game, Jackson, who usually wears No. 4, was spotted wearing a No. 24 jersey, but was identified on the roster as freshman Marvin Burks.

Jackson returned to the team during the following week's matchup against Lutheran North, sporting his No. 4 jersey. The St. Louis Dispatch first published photographs from both games in which Jackson played. According to the newspaper, Jackson has unique tattoos on his right arm, which helped them identify that the running back played in each of the team's first two games.

MSHAA by-laws also state that a school must forfeit all games in which an ineligible player played, meaning Cardinal Ritter had to forfeit the first game of the season. However, the school made the decision to forfeit all seven of its 2019 games after reporting the incident to the organization.

"This week, we learned of an alleged incident involving one of our scholar-athletes who played in our first regular-season football games, for which he was ineligible. As soon as we became aware of the incident, we began an internal investigation. Upon finding the allegation to be true, we self-reported the incident to the Missouri State High School Athletic Association (MSHAA), and began a further collaborative investigation with the organization," said Armstead in a statement on October 15.

Shortly afterward reporting the incident, Cardinal Ritter fired the program's head coach Brandon Gregory.

On Friday, Gregory spoke to KMOV4 News about the situation. Gregory stated that he sat Jackson during a preseason game, or a Jamboree game, which he thought would fulfill the suspension.

"That's kinda my wrongdoing of not knowing the rules, and that he shouldn't have not sat out the jamboree, he should have sat out week one, so that's what happened," Gregory said.

On Friday, the school announced that the football team is forfeiting the remainder of its season and dismissing its entire coaching staff.

"Furthermore, Cardinal Ritter's Athletic Director, Preston Thomas, has made the decision to retire," the statement said.

Following a meeting at the school on Sunday to discuss what's next for the football program, many players and families expressed their distress.

The players are "upset and discouraged," said one mother to KSDK.

"I think it's a shame for the kids, I think it's overboard, you know suspend the players, suspend the coach but not the whole team and fire all the coaches. I think that's overboard," David Miller, another fan, told KSDK.

Before the scandal, the school was ranked the No. 1 small school football team in the country by MaxPreps.