Owen-Withee, WIAA disagree on cause of team’s post-season absence | Sports
Pandemic, students gaining jobs, other hobbies and losing interest, on the first day of football practice in 2020 Owen-Withee’s only 13 athletes showed up.
After the 2019 season, they made the difficult decision to bring their football program down to eight, with the school board filing paperwork in November 2020.
They knew they would serve a two-year ban, but were told they would be eligible to play after the season in 2022.
More than a year later, that claim was withdrawn.
“I don’t know where things have turned, how things have changed,” said Terry Laube, longtime Blackhawk head coach. “We felt that we did all she asked us to do and we were all good to go and suddenly the rug was pulled from underneath us.”
With documentation from WIAA stating they would qualify for the playoffs in 2022, the school made the decision to appeal.
WIAA effectively ruled that it was a clerical error, made by a former employee.
Excluding the 2019 season, the Blackhawks competed in the Junior-varsity season with the varsity side sidelined, however, it will not count towards their two-year ban, as the school originally explained.
“I’ve had the great fortune of being a coach for 34 years,” says Laube. “I don’t think I’ve been shot like this before. We had to go in and have to look 22 guys in the eye and say, ‘I’m so sorry, you know what we appealed was denied. ‘.”
The error, caused by a now-retired WIAA official, was communicated to the school via email, with WIAA Executive Director Stephanie Hauser, and other elected officials included. However, the fix was not made until almost a year later in September 2021.
Although the WIAA has acknowledged the error, they say it is based on what is written in the rule book in place.
“Every conversation we have in this office, when it comes to eligibility, comes down to figuring out how that can be done in the membership rules that have been voted on and implemented to find how to make either school programs or individuals eligible for our tournament series,” said WIAA Communications Director Todd Clark.
“It’s clear what the regulations of the season require in a situation like this, and that’s why from the staff and board’s point of view, we can’t just ignore the rule.”
Now, Owen-Withee, who ranks third in the state with eight, will finish the season on Friday without a trip to post-season for the third year in a row.
“You know people make decisions that you really don’t understand,” says Laube. “Life isn’t always fair, I guess. So that’s it, life isn’t fair and that’s a big lesson for them.”
Laube continued: “We all have the opportunity to make mistakes in our lives. “To just admit those mistakes and then say, ‘In the best interest of the student athletes, this is what we need to do, we need to allow them to come forward and experience the playoffs. . “
Owen-Withee, 7-0, will end the season on Friday against the also unbeaten Thorp Cardinals.