by Chris Harris
The Meece Middle School 8th-grade football program has had a long history of success in the Kentucky Middle School Football Association State Playoffs and Championships, with several state titles to their credit.
And this year’s Meece Middle School team was looking to add another state crown to their trophy case after defeating Campbellsville 24-8 last weekend in the KMSFA state playoffs quarterfinals. Meece Middle was scheduled to play Edmonson County in the 8th-grade Division 3 state semifinals yesterday at Bryan Station High School, with the winner of that game advancing on to the KMSFA State Championship game to be played today at 2 p.m.
But after a discrepancy was found on the birth date of one of Mecce Middle School’s football players, the young Jumpers dream season was turned upside down.
“After a board meeting on Friday, we determined that Meece Middle School’s 8th-grade football team would be disqualified from the KMSA State Playoffs this weekend and they would have to forfeit all 12 of their games played this season,” stated KMSFA board member Jeremy Bass. “The roster received from Meece Middle listed the player in question as under the age limit, but after an inquiry it was determined from his birth certificate that the player was over the age limit.”
According to the KMSFA guideline, no player who turns 15 years of age before Aug. 1 of that season will be eligible to play. At the start of each season, the middle school football programs must turn a roster of their participating players with birth dates.
All of the Meece Middle School players were under the age limit when they sent in their rosters this summer. After an inquiry about a certain player on the Meece Middle School football squad, the KMSFA noticed that there was a discrepancy between the questioned player’s birth certificate date and the date on Meece Middle School’s roster.
“The discrepancy was found on Wednesday of this week and we initially recommended the suspension of their coach Max Messamore,” Bass stated. “I have the utmost respect for Coach Messamore and he is a class act. I have coached against him in the past and I always admired the way he ran his program.”
On Friday, the KMSFA board member met to determine what sanctions, if any would be handed down to Meece Middle School for their roster discrepancy. Around noon Friday, the KMSFA board made the decision to disqualify Meece Middle from the state playoffs and would force Meece to forfeit all 12 games they played this season (10 regular season games and 2 playoff games).
“We have been stressed out all week over this matter and we hate it had to come to this,” Bass stated. “This was a difficult decision that affected a lot of people and I know it is a huge disappointment to the kids on the team.”
The night before the playoffs, the KMSFA contacted representatives from the Campbellsville Middle School football program, the team Meece Middle had defeated last weekend, to see if they could participate in the KMSFA State Playoffs – in the place of Meece Middle School. According to Bass, the Campbellsville players had already turned in their uniforms and equipment, but they made the necessary arrangements to play on Saturday after the short notice.
Somerset Independent Schools officials are still in the process of ascertaining what exactly happened to cause the situation. Meece Middle Principal Calvin Rollyson said that he’s had initial contact with the KMSFA and plans on contacting them on Monday to request all evidence in writing that the organization may have.
“I feel really bad for all the kids and parents,” said Rollyson. “We are definitely looking at what went wrong. We’re looking at everything to find out how we can improve and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Both Rollyson and Somerset Superintendent Boyd Randolph noted that no disciplinary action had been taken in regards to Messamore at this time.
Randolph said he met with Messamore and Somerset High School Athletic Director Bob Tucker on Friday, where the football team’s situation was brought to his attention.
“Coach Messamore brought the document in question to my office yesterday,” said Randolph. “Evidently, the determination was made that there was something in question about that document.
“Just so we’re not working with hearsay or speculation, (Rollyson) is asking the coach’s association for specific clarification of all issues involved,” he added. “It’s not fair to speculate on things, it’s not fair to the program or kids or to the school. After we get that information, we’ll be in a better position to make the next step.”
Randolph noted that this situation is “probably part of a bigger, broad conversation going on” for the last three or four years about having a statewide body for middle schools, as the KMSFA is not officially sanctioned like the KHSAA (Kentucky High School Athletic Association) but rather is a coaches-run organization.
Still, Randolph added that “anytime you join an organization like this, you agree to abide by their terms and conditions.”
Local attorney Dan Thompson took legal action on the Meece football team’s behalf Friday. He said that Meece had filed an appeal to the KMSFA but it was denied, then contacted him about filing a lawsuit.
“Instead of that, we filed supplemental documents to the appeal,” said Thompson, who noted that it was essentially an eleventh-hour move as Meece didn’t find out until 2:45 p.m. Friday that they were being excluded from the tournament.
“The appeal would have been filed in Lexington before the close of business yesterday, and the ability to do that was difficult,” said Thompson. “In lieu of trying to file an after-hours suit and seek an injunction, we talked to the board members and submitted the supplemental information. (The KMSFA) made a final decision about 8 p.m. last night.”
That decision, of course, was to deny Meece’s effort, leaving the team unable to make any additional moves in time for play Saturday. As Thompson sees it, there’s little else that can be done from this point forward.
“(Meece) could seek to have the board decision reviewed, but what’s your remedy?” he said. “There is no remedy at this point. The only thing they could seek is money damages for expenses in association with preparation for the state tournament, but (the KMSFA) is a non-profit board, probably with little or no insurance.”
Bass explained that this is the first time a middle school football team has been disqualified from the playoffs or had to forfeit their games since the inception of the KMSFA, which was formed in 2007. The KMSFA will meet again, after the state championships, to discuss the future of their association with the Meece Middle School football program.