A high school in St. Louis canceled the remainder of its undefeated football team’s season and fired the entire coaching staff after it was revealed that a suspended player suited up in a different uniform and played a game.
On October 15, STLhighschoolsports.com reported that 7-0 Cardinal Ritter College Prep had allowed running back Bill Jackson to play the Aug. 31 season opener at Nazareth Academy, even though the junior should have by rule received a one-game suspension after he was ejected in last year’s state title game. Instead, Cardinal Ritter allowed Jackson to switch his uniform number from No. 4 to No. 24 and play the opener as “freshman Marvin Burks” (who appears to be real). The plan blew up because of Jackson’s tattoos on his right arm.
The running back’s participation was important to Cardinal Ritter’s victory, even though he and head coach Brandon Gregory later acted like he didn’t play. From the report:
While wearing No. 24, Jackson rushed for 109 yards and had a 56-yard touchdown run in a 32-21 win against Nazareth, the preseason No. 1 team in Chicago and the defending Illinois Class 7A champion.
After rushing for 147 yards against Lutheran North, Jackson and Gregory told STLhighschoolsports.com that Jackson sat out Week 1.
“Watching last week, it wasn’t fun at all,” Jackson said. “It gave me a spark.”
Gregory said, “He earned it, he deserved it. It was his time to play ball.”
Since Jackson never served his punishment, he would’ve been ineligible for every game in which he played—all seven of them—so the school chose to nullify the entire season. Last Friday, Cardinal Ritter school president Tamiko Armstead said all of the team’s games this season would be forfeited, and that the entire coaching staff was “permanently released” from their positions.
After the news broke, Gregory sat for an interview for St. Louis NBC affiliate KSDK. He did not have anything illuminating to say beyond, “A mistake was made,” over and over again.
Gregory also showed up at St. Louis CBS affiliate KMOV for an interview Friday, and said he wasn’t aware that Jackson should have been suspended for a game:
“That’s kinda my wrongdoing of not knowing the rules and that he shouldn’t have not sat out the jamboree, he should have sat out week one so that’s what happened,” Gregory said.
Gregory also denied that Jackson wearing a different number on his jersey was part of a cover-up.
“That’s a thing our kids do on the regular basis, you know, they try to change jersey numbers and sometimes don’t let us know,” said Gregory.