Eligibility issues boot Spanish Fort soccer from playoffs

Senator Elliott says legislation is forthcoming to ‘fix this problem’

By Cole McNanna
Sports Editor
cole@gulfcoastmedia.com
Posted 5/10/22

Although the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams from Spanish Fort High School qualified for the Class 6A state playoffs, a ruling from the Alabama High School Athletic Association deemed both teams fielded ineligible players.

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Eligibility issues boot Spanish Fort soccer from playoffs

Senator Elliott says legislation is forthcoming to ‘fix this problem’

Posted

Although the boys’ and girls’ soccer teams from Spanish Fort High School qualified for the Class 6A state playoffs, a ruling from the Alabama High School Athletic Association deemed both teams fielded ineligible players.

As a result, the school was also fined and placed on a one-year probation by AHSAA where the involved student-athletes will also be forced to miss the same number of games they competed in this season, next year.

The fines reportedly totaled $400, $250 for letting ineligible players compete and another $150 because one of the involved students is a senior and cannot sit out games next year.

When asked for comment, an AHSAA representative said Executive Director Alvin Briggs’ comments were directed to the member school.

Superintendent of Baldwin County Schools Eddie Tyler went through the appeals process but was eventually denied by the First District Board Friday, April 29, when the soccer postseasons had already started. The Toros’ Area 2 replacements lost their first-round matchups in both the boys’ and girls’ brackets.

“The decision regarding eligibility comes down to a family with players on both the girls’ and boys’ teams who relocated here from another state,” Tyler said in an April 27 statement. “Under AHSAA rules, the entire family must have moved at the same time from an out-of-state location to an in-state location. Because the family did not all move at the same time, AHSAA has determined that all children in that family are ineligible for varsity competition. Since those children competed in the regular season, it now renders each of those games a forfeit under AHSAA rules.”

This is not unfamiliar territory in Baldwin County according to state Senator Chris Elliott, who said legislature is being drafted to help address similar situations.

“We're looking at previous pieces of legislation that have already been drafted in Alabama, and then we're looking at legislation in other states and how other states deal with this issue,” Elliott said in a May 4 interview. “We've got some time before the next legislative session, which does not start until next year, so we will use that time to look at best practices really around the country, as well as previous attempts to get the AHSAA under control and take the best from what they've got.”

Elliott said at the end of the day, he hopes to find a resolution.

“I am going to fix this problem one way or another,” he said. “I'm very much encouraging them to be part of the solution and work with us to accomplish the goal, which is restoring the public's trust in their institution. If they're willing to do that, they can absolutely be a team member in this and we can move forward. If they are not, then we will move forward with it regardless.”

According to reports, the situation centers around the DeFillipo family who moved to Spanish Fort from Pennsylvania.

Before the school year started, the mother, Kerry, registered her son Anthony and two daughters. At the time, she was told by AHSAA Soccer Director Marvin Chou that Anthony would be conditionally eligible for competition if he met the requirements, which included that all principal members of the family move and reside together in the same house.

Anthony had already lived separately from the family, however, and moved to Spanish Fort from Colorado in March and joined the Toros. After a third party raised questions, Spanish Fort self-reported the possible violations and the AHSAA investigation ultimately led to the end of the Toros’ season.

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