TAMPA The Florida High School Athletics Association's Board of Directors denied a final chance at eligibility during the regular season for two Armwood football players but a third could play as soon as Friday's district game against Sickles if Hawks principal Mike Ippolito rules in their favor.
The FHSAA board met Sunday in Gainesville to hear the final appeal of nine athletes from around the state who were turned down by FHSAA sectional appeals committees. Appealing to the board Sunday from Armwood were junior linebacker Craig Carrington and junior running back Greg Newton, who were on last year's state championship team, and senior offensive lineman Gabe Nold, who transferred from Wharton in February.
At question with all three players was whether they had falsified residency information in order to register at the Seffner school. All three were represented at Sunday's hearing by Tampa attorney Peter Hobson.
The board denied the appeals presented for Carrington and Newton by votes of 11-3 and 12-2, respectively. But after Hobson presented the board new evidence showing more than 16,000 thousand text messages and 3,000 phone calls made by Nold that were transmitted off a cell tower near to the apartment he has been living with his father since moving into Armwood's district seven months ago, the board ruled the case must be reviewed by Hawks principal Mike Ippolito and FHSAA staff.
Nold's father, John Nold, said he hopes to meet with Ippolito early this week to hand over hundreds of pages of those phone records. He says he and his son, an honors student at Armwood with a GPA of 5.4, aren't getting their hopes up about playing Friday. But they are, he says, encouraged that the board believes the case deserves further review.
''We're not out of the woods yet but at lease we live to fight another day,'' John Nold said. ''There's still a lot of work ahead to go through with this new information and all these phone records.''
Hobson said he has made it easy for Ippolito and the FHSAA to rule in the Nold's favor because of a graphic showing the physical location of the cell tower in relationship to the texts and phones calls. Most, Hobson says, shows the tower used is the one near their Seffner apartment. Most notably, calls made late at night on school nights -- times one would assume Gabe Nold would be at the apartment -- were transmitted by this tower, Hobson said.
''There is clear and convincing evidence in the form of empirical data showing the Nolds are telling the truth,'' Hobson said. ''It's now the responsibility of Ippolito and the FHSAA to present clear and convincing evidence they weren't telling the truth last spring when they said they were living there.''
Even with Newton's denial Sunday, he could be eligible to play for Armwood in the first round of the playoffs. Hawks coach Sean Callahan said Newton's one-year suspension ends Nov. 16, after which Callahan believes Newton is eligible to play. Carrington's suspension ends in January, Callahan said.
The rules have allowed the ineligible Hawks to take part in practice but not play in games.