Story courtesy of The Tennessean:
Giles County must forfeit its five football wins and will miss the Class 3A playoffs after it played an ineligible player this season. The school also was fined $700 — $100 for every game in which the player participated.
This marks the third time the Giles County football program has been disciplined for TSSAA violations under the leadership of coach David O’Connor during his two stints as the Bobcats’ coach. However, it marks the first time the program has forfeited wins.
The TSSAA ruled Giles County played an ineligible player in its first seven games. The athlete originally was ruled eligible based on a bona fide change of residence. However, the TSSAA and Giles County administration later verified that the school was provided false information.
According to a letter to Giles County Principal Donna Cobb from TSSAA executive director Bernard Childress, the athlete’s “family unit” moved into the Giles County zone to make the athlete eligible. Afterward, one of his parents moved back to the original residence.
TSSAA bylaws state that if an athlete has been ruled eligible as a result of change of residence, and the parents or guardian returns to the former residence before the student has been enrolled in the new school for 12 months, the athlete is then ineligible.
Giles County’s violation is the latest in a troubling year for TSSAA football programs. At least four schools have been forced to forfeit games for playing ineligible athletes.
Clarksville Northeast forfeited its first five wins after it played an ineligible player. Powell later forfeited seven wins. And Christian Academy of Knoxville forfeited one game because of an ineligible player.
Giles County, which was 5-3 overall and 1-2 in Region 5-3A, was primed for a top-three finish if it beat Stratford on Oct. 26 to finish the season. The Bobcats must forfeit a region win over Whites Creek, which will now qualify for the playoffs despite currently holding a 2-7 overall record.
The Bobcats also forfeit nonregion wins to Lawrence County, Lincoln County, Marshall County and Fayette-Ware. Giles County plays at Tullahoma on Friday in a nonregion game.
O’Connor previously committed TSSAA violations in 2012 and 2016 while at Giles County.
In 2012, O’Connor was given a two-game suspension for breaking the recruiting rule when he had illegal contact with a student from another high school. He resigned to take the head coaching position at Buckhorn (Ala.) while Giles County was placed on a two-year probation with a $1,000 fine and other punishments in 2013 and 2014.
He returned to Pulaski to coach the Bobcats in 2016 and immediately violated a then-new rule by allowing eighth-graders to lift weights and conduct football activities during school hours within a period that was not allowed.
TSSAA policy does not allow it to punish the coach directly. It can punish only the high school program.