St. John’s OHSAA membership suspended

BELLAIRE — St. John Central received official notice Thursday that its membership to the Ohio High School Athletic Association has been suspended for the remainder of this school year and 2018-19.

The suspension stems from a violation of Constitution Article 3-3-4, which requires sponsorship of at least two varsity sports each season. It has nothing to do with the current OHSAA probation that the Fighting Irish athletic program is on due to its past transgressions. St. John was one of eight schools to be penalized during the monthy Board of Directors meeting, which was held at the OHSAA office in Columbus.

St. John Central, which has an enrollment of just 28 for this school year, sponsored only volleyball during the fall. The OHSAA rule doesn’t require two sports per gender, but simply two sports. So, for instance, if the Irish had even just one golfer or cross country runner enter the postseason, this would have been avoided. There is also an exception to the rule that school officials would have needed to apply for, but that would have had to be done in advance.

The suspension begins immediately and will cause the Irish girls basketball, swimming and bowling teams to miss their respective sectional tournament.

“The (suspension) lasts until they go through an entire school in which they offer two sports per season,” OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said. “It is a really big penalty and once a school is (suspended), it takes a while to get out. This rule was voted into place by the membership, so that schools are competing in many sports and not just loading up into one. We realize that’s not what happened in this case with Bellaire St. John.”

The OHSAA suspension doesn’t affect St. John’s standing with the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference, according to Executive Secretary Tom Rataiczak. Since the Irish haven’t been dismissed from the state association, their OVAC membership remains in full effect. Their teams will be eligible for all conference championships for the remainder of the school year.

Any athlete who may opt to leave St. John Central over this is still subject to the OHSAA’s transfer bylaw. According to Stried, St. John’s prior probation, which stemmed from ineligible player in the football, came to an end after this past football season even though the Irish haven’t fielded a team since they entered into that probation.

“We graciously thank OHSAA for their seamless cooperation and support during this time,” SJC Principal Jarret Kuhns said in a prepared statement he issued late Friday morning. He added, “In line with the school’s season of rebuilding and renewal, St. John Central has been working to establish new and reinstate previously active athletic programs for the 2018-2019 school year. This includes some of their most recent announcements of football, cheer, men’s basketball, and baseball. We will continue to evaluate the current status of all of our academic and athletic programs and make improvements as necessary.”