Three days after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the news Cardinal Ritter College Prep had used an ineligible player in its season opener at Nazareth (Illinois) Academy, the Lions' season is done.
Cardinal Ritter, which had been the No. 1 team in Class 2, forfeited all seven of its wins this season, including a game against Helias, on Thursday. According to multiple reports out of St. Louis on Friday evening, the Archdiocese of St. Louis cancelled the remainder of the Lions' season, and the entire football staff, including head coach Brandon Gregory, was let go Friday, according to a statement released by the school.
Bill Jackson, a Cardinal Ritter running back, was ejected from the 2018 Class 3 championship game against Trinity Catholic and was therefore, by guidelines set by the National Federation of State High School Associations, required to sit out the first game of the 2019 season. The Post-Dispatch identified Jackson, who was wearing a different jersey and identified under a different name on the game program, in photos taken of the game against Nazareth, in which identifying tattoos were visible. Jackson played in all seven games for the Lions this season, and Cardinal Ritter forfeited all seven games as a self-reported punishment to the Missouri State High School Athletics Association.
Cardinal Ritter's game Friday against Granite City was cancelled, and the Lions will forfeit the remainder of their regular-season games and will not be eligible for the postseason.
"This week, we learned of an alleged incident involving one of our scholar-athletes who played in our first regular-season football game, for which he was ineligible," school president Tamiko Armstead said in a statement. "As soon as we became aware of the incident, we began an internal investigation. Upon finding the allegation to be true, we self-reported the incident to the Missouri State High School Athletic Association (MSHSAA), and began a further collaborative investigation with the organization.
"Based on further review of the results of that investigation, in which we worked closely with the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we have decided to suspend the Cardinal Ritter football program for the remainder of this school year. In addition to the suspension of the program, all current coaches serving the Cardinal Ritter football team will be permanently released from Cardinal Ritter College Prep immediately. Furthermore, Cardinal Ritter's Athletic Director, Preston Thomas, has made the decision to retire."
It was not immediately known whether MSHSAA would issue its own punishment for Cardinal Ritter's use of an ineligible player.