Allie Rooney '16 Sports Editor
12 games into the season, the Ludlow High School boys’ soccer team received news that absolutely blindsided them. On Oct. 7, Ludlow’s Athletic Director, Tim Brillo, informed head coach Greg Kolodziey that one of his players who had participated in 11 of their first 12 games was academically ineligible. The administration then turned the information over to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association. The players were made aware of the situation that afternoon at a meeting with Principal Lisa Nemeth, the Athletic Director and coaches.
Ludlow has the most successful boys’ soccer program in Western Massachusetts and one of the most successful ones in the state. The program has brought home 17 state championships and since the start of the postseason play in 1946, they have reached the title game 50 times, winning 32 Western Mass Championships.
But because the ineligible player participated in 11 of the team’s first 12 games, the team had to forfeit the games, altering their previous record of 8-2-2 to 1-11-0, essentially crushing any hope they had of qualifying for tournament play.
The ineligible player, who failed three of his six classes in the spring semester, was under the impression from his school guidance counselor that if he went to summer school to make up the credit, he would be promoted to the next grade and would be able to play soccer in the fall. However, the student only made up one of his failed classes in summer school.
On Oct. 22, the school appeared before the MIAA board after sending in an appeal. The only shot the team had in making an appearance in the tournament was if the MIAA accepted their appeal. The team’s 15 seniors, coaching staff, Ludlow’s Principal, and Athletic Director all traveled by bus to Franklin, Mass. Head coach, two senior captains, the principal, and the athletic director all spoke at the appeal.
The athletic director explained to the board that it was his fault that the student was missed. He stated that it was his job to make sure all teammates are eligible to participate in sports, and he failed. Principal Nemeth stated that not once in her four years as principal did she ever ask Tim Brillo how the process of checking the athletes was done. The board denied the appeal by a 5-13 vote. The members of the board did not believe that the given circumstances were enough to overlook what the team had done — playing an ineligible player.
Many parents and members of the Ludlow community are calling for some action to be taken against either the principal or the athletic director. Athletics, soccer in particular, are an immense part of Ludlow High School and therefore carry a great weight with the community. Many parents of players on the soccer team and recent graduates who participated on the soccer team in past years feel as though the students should not be punished for what they classify as an “adult’s mistake.” Their shot at the championship title was taken away and all of the hard work that the current team has put into their season negated.
While the ultimate decision was not going to please everyone, two distinct positions on the matter have emerged. One side believes that because the school broke the rules by playing the athlete, regardless of whether or not the player or coach knew about the player’s ineligibility, and should be punished accordingly. The other side, comprised mostly of Ludlow students and fans, believe that the team should not be punished for the administration’s mistake.