UPDATED: Callaway forfeits Cedartown game after players ruled ineligible for not meeting requirements of ‘bona fide’ move

Published 7:43 pm Wednesday, September 20, 2023

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Callaway High School has had to forfeit its biggest football victory of the season.

The Cavaliers posted on social media Wednesday that they had to forfeit their Aug. 25 victory over Cedartown because four student-athletes on the football team did not meet the eligibility requirements for athletic participation. The Cavaliers won the game 27-10 over the reigning 4A state runner-ups.

“These players participated in the football game on August 25 versus Cedartown, and as a result, the win must be forfeited,” the school wrote.

Principal Jason Graham and Superintendent Brian Shumate said the eligibility issue was a result of four unidentified students who moved into the system from Meriwether County this year. Under Georgia High School Association rules, the students must make a bonafide move, which includes the whole family unit.

The issue is that there are apparently siblings of the students did not move.

“We believe that detail is why the GHSA has made this decision to rule them ineligible,” Graham said. “We did not have any information on the siblings when these students went to the parent center and enrolled and then were assigned Callaway High School.”

Graham said he was surprised at the decision because he felt they had followed all the protocols correctly, noting they have a “high standard” and “high expectation” for running the school and athletic program.

“In our response to the original letter, we cited the process that we have in our system and that we follow the paperwork and they all appeared to be legitimately enrolled and living in our zone and our school system and that they had met all eligibility requirements and that we had no knowledge of any siblings,” Graham said.

The GHSA says on its website the following about a bona fide move: “The student must move with the entire parental unit or persons he/she resided with at the former school, and the student and parent(s) or persons residing with the student must live in the service area of the new school,” the rule states. “It is important to note that everyone in the immediate family must move from the old residence to the new residence. The new residence must be the full-time (7 days a week) residence of the family unit.”

Graham said the GHSA first questioned the players’ status on Sept. 6, and the student-athletes did not participate in any other athletic contests after the Cedartown game. Callaway was informed of the ineligibility ruling and a $1,000 fine on Tuesday. The fine will be paid out of the Callaway High athletic department.

“We’re fully committed to following all GHSA regulations and bylaws, and I have confidence that we have followed all proper procedures, and we’re going to work to ensure that we continue to do that,” Graham said. “In this case, there was something that was missed, and we don’t want it to happen again. And so we’re going to continue to do our due diligence to make sure that anybody who we submit for eligibility that they meet all requirements.”

Graham said the team was notified of the forfeit Wednesday morning by Callaway head coach Pete Wiggins.

“It doesn’t really change anything,” Graham said. “We’re still moving forward. It was a non-region game. We don’t anticipate that it’s going to impact us moving forward.”

The Cavaliers are now 1-2 on the season.