A high school football player in Scottsdale may have to sit out his senior season because he transferred from another school around the same time a coach did.
Arizona Interscholastic Association's "prior contact rule" prevents players from switching schools just to follow a coach they’ve played for before. But Marqui Johnson's dad says the timing of everything is just an unfortunate coincidence.
Marqui started playing at Chaparral High School two years ago after the family moved from Philadelphia.
“We didn’t realize how big a football state Arizona was," father Ron Johnson said.
Marqui had monster seasons his sophomore and junior years as a running back at Chaparral.
"We wanted to finish at Chaparral. I mean, we started there, we wanted to finish there," Ron said.
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But he explained that his son had some bad experiences with a member of the school's staff. He says they were toxic enough that he ultimately decided to move Marqui over to Saguaro High School for his protection.
But after transferring, he found out a coach from Chaparral had also made the switch over to Saguaro. That's why the AIA ruled Marqui ineligible on Tuesday.
According to AIA Assistant Executive Director Joe Paddock, the association's Conference Committee simply applied the 'prior contact' bylaw and denied Johnson hardship (an extenuating circumstance that would exempt him from the rule).
We asked Ron if that coach in any way tried to recruit his son.
"Not at all! We barely knew him!” he said. The coach was over quarterbacks, and the Johnsons say "hi" and "bye" were the only conversations Marqui ever had with him.
"I understand why they did it. I think it’s a good rule. As upset as I am, I think it’s a good rule. But it needs to be overhauled because kids that really need to move for very serious reasons. They automatically have to sit out a year, no questions asked," Ron said. "I just got him out of one situation that he was depressed and upset. Now he’s going back into another one."
This could be devastating for an aspiring college football player who’s already shown he can rack up yardage. Saguaro High has an appeal to the AIA's executive board coming up on August 28th. Paddock says that's a chance for the school or the family to present any new information that wasn't presented to the conference committee during discussion of hardship.
Scottsdale Unified -- the district both schools are in – sent a statement, saying, “The Scottsdale Unified School District adheres to the bylaws of the Arizona Interscholastic Association. The district will continue to support its athletes and programs within the AIA’s guidelines.”Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.
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