Students at Deer Valley High School will be able to compete in state tournaments again, and the district says it's taking action against staff members that led to the team's ineligibility.
On Monday, the Arizona Interscholastic Association voted unanimously to make the football team eligible to play in state playoffs.
The Deer Valley Unified School District said in a statement Monday, "It was Deer Valley's belief that students should not be held accountable for the actions of adults."
DVUSD said they cannot comment on personnel issues, but says the district "has taken appropriate administrative and disciplinary actions."
On Oct. 8, the probationary status for Deer Valley was listed for all programs except football, "as a result of the Arizona Interscholastic Association's appeal hearing."
The AIA had placed Deer Valley High School's entire athletic department on probation for playing two ineligible students during the first varsity football game of the season.
"Based on the information the board received, in the last meeting on Monday, it was the principal and the athletic director who made the decision to say to the coach, 'Go ahead and play these kids,'" said AIA Associate Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer Chuck Schmidt.
Schmidt said the two kids in question are transfer students who were ineligible to play during the Aug. 30 game. So the AIA board decided to put the DVHS athletic department on probation.
"This is the first time where a principal and athletic director knowingly violated the bylaw, willingly violated a bylaw, even though they'd been advised not to," Schmidt said.
Some parents and students questioned the move since the board cleared the two athletes to play during a hardship appeal hearing just a few days later.
But the AIA maintains that on the day of the season opener the boys should not have been on the field.
"If we don't protect the standards of how a student becomes eligible, maintain that eligibility, I believe the board would say, 'We're not high school sports then,'" said Schmidt.
While under probation, players said the football team continued to train and play as if a postseason was guaranteed.
"We're still going to go out there and work really hard," said DVHS varsity football slot receiver Santana Gonzalez during an interview prior to the lift on the probation. "Nothing can really break us apart at this point."
Among the concerns by players and parents was that college careers could be on the line if they couldn't show their stuff during playoffs.
"The recruiters will see you more," said quarterback Devon Palomino about the importance of making an appearance during the playoff season. "They'll see that you're able to win; you're able to put out a good record out there. And that's what they like to see."
Devon's dad said he and other parents didn't want to see their kids robbed of opportunity or punished for something over which they had no control.
"They're hurting players that had nothing to do with any of this," said Mike Palomino. "Even the football program itself - the players didn't make that decision. The head coach didn't make that decision."
The AIA told the Deer Valley Unified School District that it could make things right by showing, during the appeal process, it's "taking corrective action," which on Monday they said they have.
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