By CHUCK PORTER
LOCUST GROVE — The Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association has refused a Locust Grove football player’s request to play in an international football competition, the athlete’s father said.
Jason Pirtle, a sophomore safety and wide receiver on the Locust Grove football team, was selected to play for a USA Football team in an international competition in February. Pirtle was previously selected as a captain to the Team USA squad for a national competition in July 2013.
His father Mark said the OSSAA informed him Tuesday that Jason would not be granted release to play for Team USA. Should Jason join Team USA for the games in February, he could be forced to forfeit his last two years of high school eligibility in Oklahoma and Locust Grove could be forced to forfeit every win that Jason played in from its 2013 season. The Pirates are currently 8-0.
Jason must declare his intention to play for the national team by Nov. 15 — the weekend of the first round of the Class 3A state football playoffs.
“I am just sick over this,” Mark said. “Jason worked so hard and just wants to compete and represent his state and country.”
David Jackson, OSSAA associate director and eligibility administrator for football, did not immediately return a message for comment.
The rule in question is Rule 19 in the OSSAA Rulebook. Rule 19, Section 2.b. states that “students may only participate in interstate All-Star athletic contests, involving All-Star teams representing different states, after all spring activities are concluded.”
Mark Pirtle claims the Team USA international competition does not fall under the “All-Star” umbrella and should not affect Jason’s eligibility in OSSAA competition. USA Football is the official football development partner of the National Football League, and the National Governing Body of the sport as recognized by the International Federation of American Football, the NCAA, and the NFHS.
In a March letter from USA Football Director of U.S. National Teams Garrett Shea to Jackson, Garrett said, “USA Football has worked with many state associations to provide athletes with exemptions and/or waivers to existing rules to allow them to represent the United States in international competitions and National Team training programs.”
In a 2007 letter from Damani J. Leech, NCAA director for baseball and football, to USA Football, Leech said no amendment was needed to the NCAA bylaws regarding national teams and their impact on the collegiate eligibility of prospective student-athletes. “[The All-Star bylaw] was not intended to apply to national teams,” Leech wrote.
A similar incident occurred last year when the OSSAA declared a dozen Tahlequah Sequoyah players ineligible and denied Tahlequah Sequoyah a spot in the Class 3A playoffs.