OSAA?reinstates Girtz for Enterprise High basketball

GIRTZ

All Jacob wanted for Christmas was a spot on the basketball team.

Late in the third quarter of Enterprise High School's Dec. 19 win over Elgin, Jacob Girtz made his first appearance of the season. The next quarter, he scored a basket. Just four days earlier, Principal Blake Clarson had wondered whether they would ever get permission to activate the powerful forward. Then the morning of Dec. 16, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) agreed to reinstate Girtz.

"I'd heard somebody at our front door," Girtz recalled, "My mom said that it was Mr. Carlson. He says you're now eligible to play. I was like, 'Yeah!'"

Administrators had discovered a problem with Girtz eligibility to play in November. Shortly before the first game, and coach Steve Lear had pulled Girtz from practices.

The problem was that Girtz had begun studying with Oregon Connections, an accredited online school, Sept. 22.

The OSAA strictly prohibits students participating in sports after they had transferred during the middle of a semester.

The idea, according to Carlson, is to prevent athletes from switching schools just to play a single sport. The ruling also stops programs from going out of their way to recruit powerful teams.

Without meaning to, Girtz had put Enterprise on the wrong side of well-meaning regulations.

Considering his participation in this fall's football season, Enterprise was already guilty of having played a mid-semester transfer. It faced a fine of $100 and would have to forfeit any victories since his Sept. 22 enrollment in online classes.

Girtz never suspected he was violating any rule. He has always studied academic courses at home and joined various programs at Enterprise- football, basketball, track and field - since fifth grade.

He signed up with Oregon Connections late in September for courses in math, English, history, biology, Spanish and health. It was typical school: reading assignments and tests, only teachers communicated to students through e-mail. In the meantime, Girtz continued to practice and play football at Enterprise High. Without realizing it, his timing put the team in jeopardy.

School officials became aware of the problem in November, shortly after the last football game on Halloween, when Oregon Connections forwarded a list of its students to Superintendent Brad Royse. The online school is required to notify a student's home district when the student enrolls online.

Upon recieving the notification, Royse contacted Carlson and Phil Sheahan, who was then the athletic director (though he recently resigned for more time to help raise his new daughter). Sheahan said he immediately reportedly the problem to the OSAA.

"We were looking forward," Sheahan said. "Football had just ended. We were thinking about basketball. We asked the OSAA, 'Ok, what do we have to do to make him eligible?' And they told us to do this, this, this. Fine. But then, the OSAA called us back and asked, 'Wait, when did he enroll in Oregon Connections?' That's when football came into question."

Eventually, Enterprise found Girtz' date of enrollment, Sept. 22, made him an ineligible mid-semester transfer. As a result, the football team must forfeit its Sept. 26 win at Irrigon High.

Then, Enterprise set about activating Girtz for the approaching basketball season. Carlson began to lobby OSAA for a "hardship" ruling on behalf of Girtz - and Dec. 16, OSAA's district committee confirmed Girtz as a hardship case. The state board issued its final approval.

"There was no change in his athletic performance school," Carlson explained. "The intent of the rule is good. Since online public schools have come into existence, that created a whole new set of issues that OSAA and regular public schools must deal with."

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