The school may not have been prepared for the stern penalties handed down recently when the OHSAA ruled on Waterloo's rules violation.
In addition to forcing the Vikings to forfeit all of their regular season games, spoiling a 9-1 season that ranked as the best in school history, the OHSAA ruled the school must pay a $500 fine, pay back all money earned from playing in the state playoffs, and accept an official reprimand and a one-year probation period. Waterloo is still eligible to qualify for the postseason next year despite the probation period.
The Vikings had qualified for the state playoffs for the first time this year. However, they can no longer claim they have appeared in the state playoffs according to OHSAA record books.
The school made about $500 from the playoff game. Giving that money back in addition to the fine means the school must pay close to $1,000 to the OHSAA.
Waterloo violated the OHSAA's "eight-semester rule," by allowing a player who had been enrolled in the school for nine semesters to play football.
Earlier, the mistake had been called "a clerical error." That terminology was somewhat misleading.
"It was really a procedural error on our part," said Waterloo principal R.C. Green.
The ineligible student-athlete was still 18 years old, he had passing grades, and he had enough credit hours to participate in a sport.
According to Waterloo coach Robb Karovic, "if we would have known about the mistake sooner, things could have been done that possibly would have allowed the player to play for us this year."
Considering the mistake was unintentional, and considering the school turned itself in for the violation, the punishment may seem harsh.
OHSAA commissioner Clair Muscaro praised Waterloo and its staff in a letter before issuing the school's sanctions.
"I got a letter from Clair Muscaro and one part of it says, 'I want to commend you and other staff members for promptly reporting the ineligibility upon discovery,' " said Green. "It also says, 'commendations also to each of you for your support of the bylaws-eligibility.' "
So why add on a fine, an official reprimand and a one-year probation if there was no intent on the part of Waterloo to break the OHSAA's rules?
"This penalty could have been more severe," said Muscaro. "If it were intentional, it probably would have been much more. This penalty will cause other schools to really pay close attention to eligibility.
"I feel very confident in the penalty assessed. I have given it much thought and I am not going to second-guess it. It is unfortunate that this happened, but I have no reservations."
According to Muscaro, placing a school on probation is automatic "any time a school's failure to determine it had an ineligible player costs another school its legitimate right to participate in the state playoffs."
Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy would have qualified for the playoffs instead of Waterloo if the mistake was caught during the season.
"The bottom line is that there is another team that practiced since August 11 that legitimately earned the right to play in the playoffs," said Muscaro. "The seniors on that team will never have that chance again. Waterloo did not earn the right to play in the playoffs."
Waterloo is considering appealing the OHSAA's decision.
"We have not made up our mind yet," said Green.