Military school system officials restored Heidelberg High School’s undefeated football record Tuesday after an investigation determined that last month’s forfeiture of an on-field victory violated high school athletic rules.

National Federation of State High School Association rules require that the decision to impose a forfeit for in-game actions must be made by the official prior to declaring the end of the contest, according to a memorandum that Nancy Bresell, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe director, sent to the principals of the two schools involved in the game.

The referee’s recommendation and the subsequent forfeiture decision were made more than a week after the completion of the Oct. 9 game. The referee's review was reportedly prompted by a request from the Wiesbaden coach in connection with Heidelberg’s failure to return to the field after a Wiesbaden score in the closing minutes.

“The forfeiture is therefore overturned and the Heidelberg team’s win of the October 9, 2010, contest with Wiesbaden HS is recognized,” Bresell wrote.

As part of the original decision, athletic director Karen Seadore pointed to testimony from the game’s referee, who said the Heidelberg coaches ignored a request to put the team back on the field after being directed to do so by the ref.

The ruling sparked an uproar of protest among Heidelberg parents, who led the push to get the team’s 54-19 victory reinstated. Last Tuesday, Heidelberg principal KJ Brewer filed a formal appeal of the forfeit. And on Friday, Heidelberg parents met with DODDS-Europe officials to make their case, which highlighted the somewhat obscure rule about when forfeits must be declared.

“There was a group of parents from Heidelberg very interested in this and brought [the rule] up as a point to be considered,” said Harvey Gerry, DODDS-Europe chief of staff. “It required a lot of effort on our part to verify that.”

While the victory was reinstated, Heidelberg coach Brad Shahan was not vindicated of the charge of unsportsmanlike conduct that prompted the original complaint.

“The basis of the protest, that the Heidelberg coach did not direct the players to return to the field after being so directed by the referee and that this lack of action by the coach constituted unsportsmanlike behavior, was substantiated,” Bresell stated in her memorandum.

Last week, Shahan declined to comment on whether he intentionally ignored a referee request that he return his players to the field and referred questions to his principal.

Brewer refused to comment Tuesday about whether Shahan faced, or will face, a reprimand in connection with the unsportsmanlike conduct charges, saying the issue was “not germane.” However, in response to a question, Seadore said Shahan had served a one-game suspension for his actions.

Brewer preferred to talk about the upcoming Heidelberg-Wiesbaden rematch on Saturday for the Division I football championship, during which he said he hoped there would be no bad blood between the two teams.

“Passions will run high in that game, but these are 16-, 17-year-old kids. They’re just looking forward to playing football,” Brewer said. “We hold our kids to high standards, and we as adults should hold ourselves to high standards.”

Cathy Richards, a Heidelberg parent who was among a group of seven parents who spent hours sifting through the high school sports rule book to prepare for the meeting with Bresell, said the focus now is on the next game.

“The Lions have not been undefeated in regular season since 1988,” Richards said. “We look forward to the game this weekend and cheering for our Lions.”

Meanwhile, in the hopes such end-of-game confusion can be avoided in the future, Bresell said that referees have been apprised of forfeiture rules.

“Similar emphasis should be made by the Principal to all members of the Heidelberg High School coaching staff of the coach’s responsibility for continuous observance of the calls of officials until games are formally and officially ended,” Bresell stated in her memorandum.

Two other DODDS teams forfeited games during the football season, both for using ineligible players. Gerry said those rulings, also enforced after games had ended, fall under a different set of rules.

author picture
John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now