By Zach Cavanagh
UPDATE: The appeal of the San Clemente football player ruled ineligible by CIF for a transfer violation was denied on Thursday, Nov. 21. However, CIF-SS and player and player’s family are in court filing an injunction. Hearing for the injunction is tomorrow morning (Friday, Nov. 22) at 8:30 a.m. in Santa Ana.
If injunction is approved tomorrow, a temporary restraining order will be put in place and tomorrow’s CIF-SS Division 2 semifinal of Chaminade of West Hills at San Clemente will be back on at San Clemente High School at 7 p.m. If injunction is denied, the player will remain ineligible with San Clemente football team still removed from CIF-SS playoffs and all 2019 games forfeited.
ORIGINAL STORY: The San Clemente High School football team was removed from the CIF-SS playoffs and forfeited all of its games in the 2019 season on Tuesday, Nov. 19 after it was determined a player was in violation of CIF State bylaws regarding transfers. The specific bylaws referred to accurate information and undue influence, pre-enrollment contact, failure to disclose pre-enrollment contact and athletically motivated transfers.
According to Capistrano Unified School District spokesperson Ryan Burris, the SCHS administration self-reported the violation on Friday, Nov. 15, and the CIF-SS made the decision based on pre-enrollment contact.
“Last week, information was provided to San Clemente High School Administration alleging possible CIF violations regarding athletic transfers to SCHS,” the CUSD statement said. “After a preliminary investigation by SCHS, it was discovered that there was one potential violation. The SCHS Administration was not aware of any violation prior to this investigation.”
The player was not named in the CIF-SS release. Late on Tuesday, the Orange County Register reported that the CIF-SS website entry on the transfer of San Clemente senior quarterback/cornerback Nick Billoups was changed to “denied” and “ineligible in all sports at any CIF high school” with a decision date of Tuesday, Nov. 19. Billoups’ transfer was initially listed on the site as approved, and he was eligible prior to Tuesday.
The San Clemente Times independently reviewed the CIF-SS website to confirm that Billoups’ transfer was denied. Neither the CIF nor San Clemente High School has confirmed the identity of the player found in violation of CIF bylaws as of press time on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
“There has been an appeal filed, and I cannot comment until that appeal is finalized,” Ortiz said.
San Clemente athletic director Jon Hamro confirmed the appeal hearing will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21. According to CIF-SS assistant commissioner Thom Simmons, the appeal is a one-day process. It is unclear if that would provide enough time to allow San Clemente to play in the semifinals as originally scheduled.
The Tritons were set to host Chaminade of West Hills in the Division 2 semifinals on Friday, Nov. 22. By virtue of the forfeit, Chaminade will advance to the CIF-SS Division 2 championship against the winner of Sierra Canyon-Rancho Cucamonga.
Billoups, who transferred from St. Anthony’s in Long Beach over the summer, was an impact player for the Trtions this season. Billoups completed 60% of his passes for 932 yards and 11 passing touchdowns, ran the ball 107 times for 554 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, and led the team in forced turnovers and interceptions with five.
“We are deeply saddened by the decision and feel terrible for our current players who have worked so hard to achieve so much on the field,” the CUSD statement said. “San Clemente High School holds itself to the highest standards and will continually follow all policies and procedures to pursue victory with honor.”
By CIF-SS bylaws, San Clemente was forced to forfeit its last playoff game, a 13-9 quarterfinal win over Rancho Verde, and is removed from the playoffs. San Clemente must also forfeit all of its games from this season, because the player played in all 12 games for the Tritons
Before the forfeits, the Tritons finished 8-2 on the field in the regular season and were runner-up in the South Coast League. San Clemente was the No. 2 seed in the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs and won at Valencia in the first round, 17-7, and at home against Rancho Verde in the quarterfinals, 13-9, to reach the CIF-SS semifinals.
This is a developing story.
Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports.