Riverdale might have to forfeit 2002 season

By Anthony Rhoads

An academic mix-up could erase the Riverdale Raiders' football team's 2002 season.

Riverdale head coach Rodney Hackney said Wednesday the school reported itself to the Georgia High School Association after finding out that star wide receiver/ defensive back Cedric Mason, who has signed to play at Duke University, was possibly ineligible during 2002.

Hackney said Mason transferred to Riverdale High School for the 2001-02 school year after going to school in Alabama his freshman and sophomore years.

Mason was well-ahead of his graduation requirements and the only classes he needed to take his senior year were two English classes, one in the first and one in the second semester.

According to the GHSA constitution and by-laws, a student athlete must take at least five classes and pass five-of-six classes to be eligible to play sports.

"I checked over the summer before the football season and he was eligible," Hackney said. "The problem was how many classes he was taking at the time. He was a whole year ahead of schedule. It's punishing a kid for being ahead. He didn't need five credits; he needed one. He was eligible and he's still on track to graduate."

Hackney also said that Mason is also on track to still go to Duke.

"He's still eligible for his scholarship to Duke," he said. "Hopefully, the GHSA will look at the credit situation and see that he was on track for graduation. Hopefully, they won't punish him for being ahead. We reported the situation because we want to do things right."

According to GHSA rules, a team that uses an ineligible athlete could face fines and could have to forfeit games.

"They were going to self report that they had an ineligible player," GHSA Assistant Executive Director Gary Phillips said. "Our executive director (Ralph Swearingen )will review it. Our by-laws allow us to discipline a school in a number of ways: fines, forfeitures. Usually, the penalty for using ineligible players is to forfeit all games the player played in."

Phillips said the fact that Riverdale has reported itself probably won't have any bearing on what disciplinary action will be taken.

"Generally it helps the school some but it's pretty cut and dried if the information is true," Phillips said. "It also falls under the GHSA rules on institutional control. Institutional control requires schools to be aware of what's going on."

Riverdale finished the 2002 regular season with an 8-2 record but lost 7-0 to Valdosta in the first round of the Class AAAAA state tournament. Riverdale also went to state in 2001 in Rodney Hackney's first season as head coach. The Raiders made it to the second round and finished at 9-3 after a loss to Valdosta.