Skyridge football coach suspended over ineligible player; Pleasant Grove parents, players protest UHSAA decision

Nov 8, 2023, 10:38 PM | Updated: Nov 9, 2023, 1:41 pm

(Derek Petersen, KSL TV)...

(Derek Petersen, KSL TV)

(Derek Petersen, KSL TV)

MIDVALE — Some parents of Pleasant Grove High School football players said they were “irate” after Skyridge High reported using an ineligible player in two playoff games, including an overtime win over the Vikings.

Skyridge’s coach, Justin Hemm, has been suspended by the Utah High School Activities Association for two weeks after the school reported the violation on Wednesday afternoon. Skyridge said an ineligible player played in the school’s 49-14 victory over Farmington on Oct. 27, and Friday’s 37-30 win against Pleasant Grove.

That report was submitted to the Region 3 Board of Managers, which recommended that Hemm be suspended from all activities for a period of two weeks. That would cover this week’s 6A playoff semifinal along with a potential championship game appearance next week.

Article 7 Section 7 of the 2023-24 UHSAA bylaws states:

Contests in which an ineligible player/participant competes shall result in the head coach being suspended for all consecutive sport activities (contests, practice, meetings, etc.) and at all team levels for the number of contests in which the ineligible player/participant competed. Suspension will carry over to the next school year where applicable. Additional sanctions may be applied to the coaching staff and/or the school by the Region Board of Managers, the Executive Committee or the Board of Trustees.

The school was also fined $3,000 for “lack of institutional control in the two incidences of playing an ineligible player.”

Pleasant Grove officials objected to the board’s recommendation and asked the UHSAA to declare a forfeit and require Skyridge to vacate Friday’s quarterfinal win.

On Wednesday, UHSAA officials asked both Skyridge and Pleasant Grove to appear before the association’s executive committee for a hearing on the recommendation and the request to vacate.

After the hearing, the UHSAA sent out a statement that is included at the end of this article. The committee unanimously ruled to accept Hemm’s suspension, fine the school $3,000 and place the school on probation for one year.

UHSAA officials said they would have no further comment on the situation.

Leading up to Wednesday’s hearing, Pleasant Grove parents sent KSL TV their concern about a similar event in 2019. In that dispute, Lone Peak High was forced to forfeit the rest of the season for allowing an ineligible player on the field. Pleasant Grove parents argued the Vikings should be allowed to take Skyridge’s place in Friday’s 6A semifinal against American Fork at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Skyridge assistant principal Joseph Atwood issued a statement Thursday morning, which read:

“The athletic department at Skyridge High School made a clerical error in a GPA calculation of a student-athlete. The athlete was mistakenly cleared to participate. When the error was discovered, the school immediately reported the violation to Region III Leadership and the UHSAA.  The UHSAA policy and ruling includes the suspension of the head coach, but we take responsibility as an athletic department. The school administration has already instituted systematic changes to prevent future mistakes.”

Skyridge athletic director Jon Lehman told KSL NewsRadio the ineligible player was a rotational defensive player, and the UHSAA changed its rule on ineligible player participation, placing blame for player ineligibility on the coach instead of the current team.

Pleasant Grove parents and players gathered at the UHSAA offices in Midvale Thursday morning, holding signs that read “Let PG play” and “PG got robbed.”

The UHSAA’s full statement on Wednesday’s hearing:

This week, Skyridge High School self-reported (as is required of all schools under the Bylaws and rules of the Utah High School Activities Association) that an ineligible player had participated in the two most recent games of the football season.

That report was submitted to the Board of Managers of Region3, which recommended that the head coach of the Skyridge football program be suspended from all activities for a period of two weeks which would include two games.

Pleasant Grove High School, which had lost to Skyridge in the November 3, 2023 quarterfinal contest, objected to the Region 3 recommendation and asked the Association to declare a forfeit because of the ineligible player, and require Skyridge to vacate that win.

Today, November 8, 2023, the Association asked both Skyridge and Pleasant Grove to appear before the Association’s Executive Committee for a hearing on the recommendation and the request to vacate. The Executive Committee took testimony from both schools and took the matter under advisement while it considered the evidence and the possible penalties.

After consideration, the Executive Committee unanimously ruled accordingly:

  1. The Recommendation of the Region 3 Board of Managers is accepted as to the suspension of the head coach for two weeks and two games;
  2. Skyridge High School is fined $3,000 for lack of institutional control in the two incidences of playing an ineligible player;
  3. Skyridge High School will be on probation for one year, during which time it will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent a recurrence of these infractions. During that time, Skyridge will report to the Association the actions it has taken and the results.

Contributing: Mitch Harper, KSL Sports

This story has been updated with additional information regarding UHSAA’s bylaws.

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Skyridge football coach suspended over ineligible player; Pleasant Grove parents, players protest UHSAA decision