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Transfer paperwork issues cost Bonner boys state bid, O'Hara girls seeding

03/06/2022, 6:00pm EST
By Kevin Cooney

Kevin Cooney (@KevinCooney)

Paperwork snafus have altered- and in one case, completely derailed- the plans of two Philadelphia Catholic League schools that had punched tickets to the PIAA Basketball championships.

Cardinal O’Hara’s girls team — who won the Catholic League girls championship at the Palestra last Monday night — was forced to forfeit the bulk of its PCL games and was knocked from the top Class 5A seed in District 12 to the No. 3 seed because of its use of an ineligible player. 

The status of O’Hara’s PCL title will be determined by the league’s Board of Governors at a future date, according to several sources who spoke on background to City of Basketball Love.

Kevin Funston (above) and Bonner are out of the state playoffs due to an ineligible player. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Bonner-Prendie's boys team — who had earned the third and final spot from District 12 in the Class 5A field — was forced to forfeit its win over Mastery Charter North in last Wednesday night’s play in game and saw its season come to an end after an appeal by the school was shot down on Friday afternoon.

The situations involve players who had transferred into both schools, but the stories reportedly differ from there, according to sources. 

Cardinal O’Hara’s case involved a transfer player who had not received proper clearance to play in any game during the regular season. Proper clearance would involve officials from both schools involved with the transfer signing off on the move. 

“Although we take ownership of the infraction and self-reported it to the PIAA, it should be emphasized that this was not the result of poor academic performance or any wrongdoing by the student-athlete involved,” O’Hara posted in a statement on its Facebook page Sunday afternoon. “It simply involved some internal miscommunication and a basic clerical mistake. The PIAA rules are clear, and when we became aware of the situation, we notified the PCL and the PIAA. We are also taking corrective actions to prevent future occurrences.”

In the case of Bonner, a transfer who was past his 10th grade year had been cleared by the PIAA for regular season play within its transfer policy. However, the school did not file the necessary paperwork to determine postseason eligibility — a new wrinkle in the state association’s transfer rules for juniors and seniors. The player participated on Wednesday night without that clearance, which resulted in the forfeit.

Bonner-Prendergast had been without an athletic director for most of the season, so it is unclear whom the responsibility would have fallen upon to check out the player’s eligibility. A source said that Bonner-Prendy was turned in by another outside outlet and did not self-report the violation.

“From our perspective, we followed appropriate PIAA protocols required of our school in a timely fashion,” Bonner-Prendergast said in a statement on its Facebook page on Saturday. “Like you, we are very proud of our student-athletes and their accomplishments, especially in these unprecedented times, and we are also deeply disheartened by this unexpected turn of events.”

Chrissie Doogan (above) and O'Hara are now the No. 3 seed out of District 12, and their PCL championship status is still unknown. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

Cardinal O’Hara – whose record with the forfeits is now 11-15 — did not have to play a District 12 playoff game to receive the top seed from the region in the Class 5A tournament. The Public League allows its lone representative — in this case, Roxborough — to enter the tournament as the automatic No. 3 seed from the district. (St. Hubert’s from the PCL was seeded second and bumped up to first, while Roxborough is now second and O’Hara third.)

O’Hara will now travel to District 1 runner-up Bishop Shanahan on Wednesday night for its state opener. Hubert’s will host Marple Newtown at Archbishop Ryan while Roxborough (just 7-5 on the season) will play District 3’s Manheim Central at Cardinal O’Hara.

The PIAA’s transfer rules are in their second year of reinforcement, but have been a greater subject of strain this year with more teams playing normal schedules after the COVID-19 pandemic. Some administrators privately have complained that the paperwork involved with them too often leads to delays. 

“I’ve had to beg people at other schools to just look at the paperwork,” one administrator said.  “It’s creating a headache.”

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