WPIAL bans West Mifflin from 2020 football playoffs for using ineligible player

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Monday, November 25, 2019 | 8:00 PM


The West Mifflin football team used an ineligible player all season, so the Titans are banned from the postseason next year, the WPIAL decided Monday.

“They entered (the playoffs) this year ineligibly, so next year someone gets to play in their place,” associate executive director Amy Scheuneman said following a closed-door hearing at the WPIAL office in Green Tree.

West Mifflin violated PIAA eligibility rules by using a player who was in his fifth year of high school, executive director Tim O’Malley said. As a result, the Titans also must forfeit all of their games from this past season and the football program is placed on probation for two years.

The ineligible player was Ni-Keese Hodges-Demery, an all-conference wide receiver who transferred from New Castle to West Mifflin during the 2017-18 school year. His fifth-year status was overlooked because he was new to the district and didn’t play any sports at West Mifflin last year.

The violation was unprecedented, O’Malley said, so the discipline was severe.

“We’ve had other schools that inadvertently used somebody ineligibly,” O’Malley said, “but I don’t remember this.”

Additionally, football coach Rod Steele and the school’s athletic administration were censured, and the school must submit a plan to avoid repeating any similar eligibility oversights.

West Mifflin can appeal to the PIAA.

Steele said he and the school’s athletic administration weren’t aware of any eligibility issues until the WPIAL approached them near the end of the regular season. Had they known earlier, the school could have petitioned the WPIAL for a hardship waiver for an additional year of eligibility.

“One kid doesn’t make a program and I’d never jeopardize my program for one kid,” Steele said. “We had no knowledge of how many semesters this particular kid was enrolled in school. He was already a student at West Mifflin when I got the job.”

Steele was hired in January. West Mifflin went 5-6 overall in his first season as coach. The Titans lost to South Fayette, 52-0, in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

In separate hearings Monday, the WPIAL ruled two transfers eligible. Trevon White transferred from Uniontown to Geibel Catholic. Trae Elmore transferred from Propel Andrew Street to East Allegheny. Both play basketball.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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