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October 26, 2010

East St. Louis is out of Illinois playoffs

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

East St. Louis (Ill.) High, the No. 31 team in the RivalsHigh Top 100, was knocked out of the Illinois state playoffs Tuesday afternoon after the Illinois High School Association ruled the use of an ineligible player meant the school would have to forfeit five games.

The ruling drops the Flyers' record from 9-0 to 4-5. They will not be replaced in the IHSA Class 7A playoffs.

"No one wins in these type of situations, " IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a press release. "And while we appreciate the school's cooperation with our investigation, member schools have an obligation to abide by our association by-laws, including the need to have clear enrollment processes in place and the ability to verify residence issues."

The residency issues centered around two players, Charles Tigue and Anthony Pierson.

Both were ruled ineligible by the IHSA: Tigue on Oct. 14; Pierson on Oct. 22.

The forfeiture punishment, however, seems to center solely around Tigue, who was first ruled ineligible and forced the team to forfeit two games he played on varsity in 2007 - his freshman season.

A loophole in the findings were initially thought to have made Tigue eligible going forward; however, new evidence came to light showing that Tigue was not living in the district at the time he played for the Flyers.

Following an arrest in 2009, Tigue had been fitted with an electronic monitoring bracelet. The bracelet was registered to an address in Belleville in April 2009. It was transferred to a residence in East St. Louis in Sept. 2009, but then back again to the Belleville residence in Oct. 2009.

The investigation into the situation with Pierson, according to Hickman, will remain ongoing.

Initially, the school had thought it would be eligible for the playoffs and was listed as the No. 1 seed and scheduled to play Belleville West when the state brackets were announced on Saturday evening.

"Certainly, the timing of this matter is less than ideal, but as much as some would have liked for us to move faster with this investigation, to do so would have been unfair to both the student-athletes and East St. Louis High School," Hickman said. "It was imperative for everyone involved that we gave due diligence to the process and uncovered all applicable information before reaching a decision."

The resulting change in the schedule will move O'Fallon to the No. 1 spot in the region and it will receive a bye.

East St. Louis' original opponent, Belleville (Ill.) West will play its first round game against the No. 4 seed, Belleville (Ill.) East.

That leaves the No. 2 seed, Plainfield (Ill.) South, to play the No. 6 seed, Bradley-Bourbonnais, and the No. 3 seed, Minooka, to take on the No. 5 ranked team, Quincy.

Pierson caught in the middle

Star running back Pierson was a central figure in a custody battle between his parents and one that left the player as a leverage point.

"He's a great kid," East St. Louis Athletic Director Leonard Manley said Tuesday morning. "It is a tough spot for any kid to be in with adults bickering and using a child to gain leverage. It would be tough for any adult to be in that situation."

Pierson had been living with his father and playing at St. Louis (Mo.) Gateway Tech after a court granted his father custody three years ago.

When Pierson turned 17, the courts allowed him to choose his residence. He elected to move with his mother and play at East St. Louis.

Upon his arrival, the school did everything it could to make sure Pierson's move was legal, including ensuring that his eligibility was confirmed with the IHSA.

"That's correct, we did," Manley said.

However, the findings of the IHSA investigation contradicted its own initial ruling.

"Prior to the season, East St. Louis high school cleared his eligibility," Hickman said. "Since that time, evidence has come to light to support that Anthony and his mother are not living in the address that they provided the association."

Historical impact

The ramifications of these investigations and forfeitures will result in the drop back in the national ranking of all-time wins.

"This affects the school's overall historical records," Hickman said.

This season, East St. Louis became the 12th most-winning program of all-time and pushed into the group of high schools with 750 cumulative wins.

The loss of 18 wins will slide it back out of the elite club and behind several other high schools: Brockton (Mass.) High, New Britain (Conn.) High, Berwick (Pa.) High and Everett (Mass.) High.

The school escaped without other further forfeiture due to lack of concrete evidence, according to Hickman.

MORE: Chat about East St. Louis and the ruling | Complete Illinois playoff coverage, EdgyTim.com

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