Because of a misinterpretation of rules, a memorable season by the Racine Lutheran High School football team could be on the verge of becoming tainted.
Adam Kirsch, Lutheran's athletic director, has self-reported the school after it was learned receiver-defensive Josh Leonard was ineligible last season. According to Kirsch, Leonard never established legal residency in Racine after transferring from Hartford High School last summer, which is a violation of Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association rules. Leonard transferred back to Hartford in January, his father, Tom, said.
Lutheran, behind All-Racine County Player of the Year Eric Oertel, went 10-3 and advanced to the semifinals of the WIAA Division 6 playoffs.
A review at Lutheran is being held to determine how much of an impact Leonard, a junior who caught three passes for 21 yards as a reserve receiver and started two games at cornerback, had in Lutheran's 10 victories. Kirsch said the gamut of possibilities range from Lutheran forfeiting all 10 of its victories to its record remaining unchanged, although he conceded the latter possibility is remote.
"You'd like to say we'd stay 10-3, but I don't see that happening," Kirsch said. "There are a couple games I would say we have no chance to get back."
Kirsch said he was taking full responsibility for the situation.
"To be honest, it falls on me," he said. "It's my job to clear all students, including transfers. The coaches were not trying to get away with anything nor was I trying to get away with anything."
Kirsch has notified all of Lutheran's opponents about the situation and, upon review of game films, a determination will be made on how much of an impact Leonard had on the games. If the game films determine Leonard had little or no impact in a particular victory, Lutheran will appeal not to forfeit the game.
The final decision on all games that are being contested will be made by the WIAA Board of Control.
"Our first game was against Rockford Lutheran," Kirsch said. "Let's say Rockford Lutheran says, ‘I don't care,' the WIAA can still rule, ‘No, he had enough of an impact that the forfeiture has to stand."
Leonard's father, a plumber in Hartford who was a linebacker for the Racine Raiders from 1986-92 and is in his third year coaching that position with the team, said he sent his son to Lutheran because he was concerned for his safety.
"I brought him down here to live with my sister because I was afraid either he or his buddies would get killed," Tom Leonard said. "They were doing stupid stuff in cars. I was trying to keep him on the straight and narrow and I played with Scottie (Smith, a former Raiders linebacker who is Lutheran's head coach) here in Racine.
"I talked to my sister, I talked to the athletic director and everything seemed to be fine."
Josh Leonard returned to Hartford in January because of what Tom Leonard said were "family issues."