Amid a growing outcry and with a state tournament berth just one victory away, Achiever Academy and the Minnesota State High School League spent Wednesday trying to answer eligibility questions about six of the girls’ hockey players on the online high school team.
Achiever Academy had “conversations with families” on Wednesday to verify eligibility information, said Matthew Resch, the school’s lawyer. The school also forwarded information to league officials, who are in the process of reviewing it.
Eligibility questions intensified Tuesday when the league forwarded Achiever an unsigned e-mail listing seven players’ names and information from Internet searching, including property records and screenshots of girls’ Twitter accounts.
The e-mail, obtained by the Star Tribune, cited players being ineligible either because parents lived out of state or families did not relocate when players transferred to Achiever, a private online school that offers intensified hockey training. The e-mail suggested that one player recently moved out of state.
High school league rules require that a student who transfers from another state must live with his or her parent(s) and other minor siblings at the new in-state address on a regular basis for the duration of his or her enrollment. Parents must also vacate their former residence.
If the student transfers within the state, a change of family residency to another public school district attendance area is required to maintain eligibility.
League bylaws say member schools are “completely and solely responsible to certify” that students meet all eligibility requirements.
Implications of such a dispute are magnified during playoffs. Two years ago Prairie Seeds Academy was banned from the Class 1A boys’ soccer state tournament for an ineligible player discovered after it won its section final game. The school forfeited its victory but the opponent — Totino-Grace — was not advanced to the state tournament.
Achiever, the top seed in Section 4 of Class 1A, is scheduled to play St. Paul United at 7 p.m. Thursday. The winner advances to the girls’ hockey state tournament next week.
United coach David Cole said he is trying to keep his team focused on winning its first section title ever but has questions about Achiever.
“It’s really a Tier I program that’s got kids from all over,” Cole said. “They could go to state and win it all. If that happens, what does that say? I’m not sure.”
Craig Perry, league associate director who oversees eligibility, said there have “been a number of e-mails to league staff from people expressing concern about what will happen.”
League executive director Dave Stead said Achiever is not under a deadline to provide information but added, “I wish we would have had it 52 Thursdays ago.”