Officials for DODEA Pacific said Monday they will explore ways to strengthen records checks and clarify regulations in the Far East Activities Council manual to prevent ineligible students from slipping through the cracks and onto rosters of high school sports teams.

The move comes after Seoul American High School found it had used two fifth-year seniors. One played volleyball, the other football and basketball.

The school’s football and boys volleyball and basketball teams were forced to forfeit games and a Far East Class AA football runner-up finish.

“I guarantee you this will not happen in the future,” Don Hobbs, Department of Defense Education Activity Pacific’s FEAC chair, said by telephone Monday. “We’re going to deal with this head-on. Mark my words, fifth-year seniors will not slip through the cracks again.”

Hobbs declined to identify the seniors in question. Attempts to contact Seoul American for comment and reaction were referred to Hobbs and DODEA Pacific spokesman Charly Hoff.

That the ineligible players went undetected for so long — both played the entire fall season — was not the fault of any one individual, Hoff and Hobbs said, but a system that needs refining.

The school system enforces what it calls an “eight semesters, clock ticking” rule. Once students begin their freshman years, they are eligible for the next eight uninterrupted semesters. Also, students cannot participate if they turn 19 before Sept. 1.

However, Hoff and Hobbs said they found what they termed “vague” areas in the manual that need to be better defined. Also, routine records checks — which were how Seoul American’s ineligible athletes were discovered — need to be tighter and done before seasons begin.

“We haven’t had anything in writing [referring to fifth-year seniors] because it’s happened so infrequently,” Hobbs said. “It’s when it becomes a problem that you have to put out a clear, identified policy in place, who’s responsible, who’s accountable.”

Hobbs said FEAC will come up with an “exact procedure” during its meeting March 29-April 2. In the interim, Hobbs said athletic directors with each school will serve as point persons to check:

Each team prior to the start of a sports season to ensure that all athletes fall within eligibility requirements.If a school has fifth-year seniors on campus and ensure they’re not participating in interscholastic sports.Seoul’s volleyball team vacated 11 regular-season Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference victories and its third-place regular-season and tournament finishes, league officials said.

The Falcons’ two all-tournament and all-conference selections and Coach of the Year award will be discussed during the next KAIAC board meeting on Jan. 12, KAIAC boys volleyball commissioner Paul Perron said.

“I commend them … for catching this and calling it on themselves,” KAIAC girls volleyball commissioner Jim Armentrout said.

The boys basketball team had to forfeit victories in its first three games this season.

Seoul American’s football team won two games and finished second in the Far East Class AA playoffs. “Obviously, they’ll have to pass that [third-place] trophy to Yokota, which will pass their [fourth-place] trophy to Guam High,” Hobbs said.

It’s not the first time Seoul American has had to vacate victories and awards for using a fifth-year senior. The Falcons boys basketball team in 1993-94 forfeited the Far East Class AA tournament title.

The same thing happened to Yokota football in 2002. The Panthers’ first two games of the season, both victories, were vacated after finding they also had used a fifth-year senior.

Each infraction was found during routine records checks after the fact.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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