David Cornwell is one of the best quarterback recruits in the country. Out of Norman (Ok.) North High School, Cornwell is a five-star recruit and holds offers from several major schools, including Alabama. Now he is in a fight for his eligibility. Tuesday, his appeal was heard before Oklahoma's governing body of athletics. As of 12:20 EST, no determination had been made.
Cornwell's P.R. firm put out the following release on the situation.
OKLAHOMA CITY - On Tuesday, June 4, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association (OSSAA) will hear an appeal from David Cornwell and his parents on why Cornwell should be eligible to play football at Norman North High School during his senior year.
OSSAA has denied Cornwell's request for a hardship waiver. Cornwell was unable to complete the fall 2011 semester of school in Florida because his mother was suffering through an unexpected, debilitating illness that could have taken her life. During that time, school and football took a backseat as Cornwell cared for his ailing mother.
"It was a very difficult time for our whole family," he said. "It's hard having to take care of someone who for so many years has taken care of you. To see her like that was devastating. At that time, nothing mattered except her health, and that includes school and football. I had to focus on my family."
The Constitution of the OSSAA clearly states that "after the student has begun the ninth grade, an exception allowing a student the opportunity to participate in athletics in an additional semester or school year may only be granted upon sufficient proof that circumstances arose beyond the control of the student and the student's parents, such as a serious and debilitating injury or illness, which prevented the student from completing academic work necessary to advance to the next grade level and make normal progress toward graduation."
Cornwell believes that his situation clearly fits within those guidelines, since his mother's serious illness was beyond the control of him or his parents, and he was not able to make any progress toward graduation during that time. Cornwell said that he has done nothing wrong and simply wants the chance to experience his senior year with his fellow teammates at Norman North.
"Since I was little, all I've ever wanted to do is play football," he said. "It's something I'm so passionate about, and I am blessed to have the chance to play with a great team and have a wonderful coach, and I want to continue to play football, even after high school. Many of the colleges that are recruiting me have said that their offers are dependent upon seeing me play my senior year, so this could really affect my future."
The following are the OSSAA's Board of Directors and the schools they represent. This group will ultimately make the decision on Cornwell's eligibility, including President Jay McAdams, Kingston; Vice President Todd Steidley, Claremore; Tom Linihan, Adair; Dudley Hume, Webbers Falls; David Morton, Bishop McGuinness; Bill Seitter, Watonga; Randy Holley, Shattuck; Duane Merideth, Durant; Mike Kellogg, Kiowa; Bill Denton, Yukon; Mike Zurline, Rush Springs; Robert Trammell, Snyder; Dr. Silvya Kirk, Mid-Del; Mark Hunt, Westmoore.
Schools that have been recruiting Cornwell include the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, the University of Tulsa, University of Alabama, Virginia Tech University, Auburn University and University of Tennessee.
SB Nation has been unable to independently confirm Cornwell's claims.
What the release doesn't note, and what could make this story more coherent, is this detail: Cornwell started high school in 2009. By the rules of the OSSAA, he was eligible to play football for four years from 2009-2012. The Cornwells are arguing that his eligibility was effectively tolled by virtue of his absence from school in the fall semester of 2011; his original junior season.
The OSSAA doesn't see it that way.
"They made a choice to leave school," Sheakley told ESPN. "They also made a choice not to play football that year."
Those are the words of the executive director of the association.
Here is the text of the criteria from the hardship application:
After the student has begun the ninth grade, an exception allowing a student the opportunity to participate in athletics in an additional semester or school year may only be granted upon sufficient proof that circumstances arose beyond the control of the student and the student's parents (or custodial parent or court-appointed guardian with legal custody of the student), such as a serious and debilitating injury or illness, which prevented the student from completing academic work necessary to advance to the next grade level and make normal progress toward graduation. An injury or illness that merely prevented athletic participation, but did not prevent the student from completing academic work, would not be sufficient to allow an exception.
The wording of this is interesting. One could read it as requiring the student to be the one afflicted with the serious injury or illness. The other way to interpret it is more broad, requiring the circumstance to impact the student and prevent his academic and athletic progress, but not necessarily requiring the student to be the one afflicted with the serious injury or illness. Clearly, this is what the Cornwells contend.
The family's attorney, Mitch McCuistian of Evans & Davis in Edmond, Okla., said he's confident in the Cornwell case but wary of the OSSAA. The association has displayed a history of inconsistent actions and a lack of oversight, McCustian said.
"They have a long line of dictatorship, I guess you'd say," he said, "and subjective views on how they handle things."
Recently, two state representatives requested a study to investigate some practices of the OSSAA.
Stick with SB Nation Recruiting for updates on Cornwell's fight for eligibility and his recruitment.