MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Martinsburg senior quarterback Malique Watkins has been ruled ineligible by the WVSSAC, as a court injunction allowed Watkins to play in this past Friday’s game against Morgantown, a 28-21 win for the Bulldogs.

According to court documents obtained by MetroNews, the SSAC based its ruling upon W.V.C.S.R 127-2-5.3.a, which states: “A student held back one year on sixth, seventh, or eighth grade without failing shall lose the fourth year of eligibility after entering ninth grade.”

Essentially, the rule is in place to prevent students from gaining a year of athletic advantage due to an extra year of physical maturity – students, however, are eligible if they were held back for academic failure.

In 2008-2009, Watkins was an eighth grader at North Middle School in Berkeley County where he received “C” and “D” grades. After that year, his parents decided to transfer Watkins to Saint James in Maryland, a private school. However, after placement testing per Saint James policy, Watkins didn’t qualify for the ninth grade (despite passing the eighth grade level at North Middle School in West Virginia).

Christopher C. Davis/Clark’s Artistic Photography

Martinsburg quarterback Malique Watkins has been ruled ineligible by the WVSSAC, but a injunction allowed him to play last week against Morgantown.

Watkins was then placed as an eighth grader at St. James for the 2009-2010 school year. Watkins later returned to school for the 2010-2011 school year as a ninth grader at Hedgesville where he played freshman level sports prior to eventually transferring again to Martinsburg.

The SSAC made Martinsburg aware of the potential conflict prior to week one of the season as Watkins sat that week out. Then, on September 26th, the SSAC ruled Watkins was officially ineligible.

“Our responsibility as an office is to enforce the rules that are provided and handed down to us by our member school principals and individuals that write the rules,” said WVSSAC executive director Gary Ray. “Our job is to apply the rules that are written.”

Ray, though, said there was no clause written in that would take into account a student that didn’t qualify at a school out of state, but did qualify instate.

“There is not,” Ray said. “We look at county policies and or policies of our member private schools in our state and with our middle schools in how they retain students.”

As for moving forward, Ray wouldn’t speculate on how any games would be handled if Watkins continues to play with the court injunction in place.

“We have a forfeiture rule in place that I would have to look at depending on each situation,” Ray said. “We do have a rule that addresses if a student participates under a court order that we would look at and address. I won’t presume and predict what may happen as to what I would or wouldn’t do. Until I have all facts in hand, I won’t make a determination.”

But, whether or not Watkins plays in the coming weeks is still to be determined – the Bulldogs may have to forfeit any wins they get with Watkins playing if the SSAC decision stands.

“The next move would up to the school to go through the appeals process – the next level would be to the board of directors,” Ray said.

A circuit court hearing, though, is already scheduled for permanent injunction relief.

Watkins, meanwhile, has over 700 yards rushing on the year and seven rushing touchdowns, leading a high-powered Martinsburg offense.

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  • Martinsburg parent

    Watkins is eligible!

  • Lwm82

    1. He did not have to attend st James...that's a choice. So he chose to repeat and thus made a decision.

    2. Martinsburg chose to ignore the matter and did not face it head on earlier. They are the ones at fault for not doing this sooner. Winning at all costs is not a motto that helps teenage student athletes.

    3. Martinsburg has built a great football program through hard work and great recruiting early in walkers coaching career. They now get students from all over coming to play football. So why risk games instead of just reporting this and making sure of eligibility over the summer? I feel bad for students!

    4. No matter what happens, this team is built to win a title and has some great athletes that need to be recognized besides the qb in the spotlight.

  • Stacy

    I look forward to seeing how this plays out. Hell, the WVSSAC might just surprise us.

  • Derek

    In this article there is a claim that Gary Paul the executive director stated there is no clause that takes into account a student that did not qualify at a school out of state, but did qualify instate; furthermore, it pulls a direct quote where Mr. Paul says, "We look at OUR policies," so that leaves me with a question to propose. If there is no clause that pertains to a case where a kid leaves, does not qualify out of state, but did qualify in state then how did they get away with ruling it based on a clause that does not even pertain to Malique? Mr. Paul states, “We look at COUNTY policies and or policies of OUR member private schools in OUR state and with OUR middle schools in how THEY retain students.” That's fine, but that does not sound like -from what the information I have been given- that this is clause based on ALL polices, of ALL private schools in the United States, and ALL of the middle schools in how students are retained. Did they rule this based on a clause that only supports a student who is held back in the state of West Virginia or Malique's unique and specific instance of a student held back in Maryland, but did qualify in state? If they try to say that it does not define it one way or the other so it applies to him there are two problems with that, and one would be that Mr. Paul already admitted that it based off a West Virginia student held back thereby disproving this is clause is vague and open to interpretation or else he would say, 'it is open to interpret and we think it applies to this unique instance,' and they wouldn't base it off of West Virginia ineligibility in the first place, and two why not consider all other clauses where all persons and cases are specified? My example would be The 2012 Florida Statures, title XLVI, Chapter 817, Section 234, 4.(b), “Any person who knowingly and with intent to injure, defraud, or deceive any insurer files a statement of claim or..." My point is that it specifies ANY person, so it does not matter who you are or where you are from. All clauses I have ever read specify things persons. From what I understand from the information I have been given, in this clause the SSAC is basing off of when a student is held back in West Virginia for reasons other than academic failure, and Mr. Paul is stating that, "We look at county policies and or policies of our member private schools in our state and with our middle schools in how they retain students.” If the clause does not specifically fit Malique's unique case since he was held back in Maryland, and then this whole thing should be thrown out, but if it does apply somehow, then it is unfortunate but there is nothing anyone can do about a clause that specifically fits Malique's case and rules against him playing.

  • Doug

    Coach Walker at Martinsburg has been known to recruit his whole coaching career at Martinsburg which is about 15 years now. Without steroids and recruiting Martinsburg would not have three state titles. A white running back graduated and went to Shepherd Univ. to play football. He was tested and could not play until he got clean. During that time he lost his muscle mass, strength and speed. Martinsburg won a title with him but in the long run he lost....If he had legitimately gained strength and speed through training he may be playing at Shepherd now. Only the school and coaching staff at Martinsburg High benefitted from him taking steroids, the boy is now paying the price. The SSAC should test all high school players for steroids. The high school kids are just doing what they have seen pro players do for the last 15 years concerning performance enhancing drugs and if there is no penalty for doing it, they will keep doing it. Starting in the 2014 school year the SSAC should penalize a team for letting an ineligible player participate by taking away two years of playoff eligibility. This rule would get some attention. Don't forget, the SSAC ruled Watkins not eligible before the season started. If SSAC rules are not adhered to then why have the SSAC? SSAC is Secondary Schools Athletic Commission.

    • Jum

      You're referring to David Gladden aren't you? Well one, he starts at Shepherd at OLB so congratulations for being an idiot. 2. The SSAC does drug test. Martinsburg had to get Troy walker and Malik Cobb tested before the season started. And people usually point to steroids when another team wins, but why don't you watch the weight lifting class, the weight lifting after practice everyday, the weight lifting in between 2 a days, and the summer conditioning? Just accept that Martinsburg works harder than everyone else in WV. And it's not recruited if they come to you. Living in the DC, PA, MD, WV, and VA area, athletes tend to move into martinsburg, and a talented football player is going to choose martinsburg over the other neighboring schools. How many transfers has martinsburg had the last 5 years? I'm sure Cabell Midland, GW, Capital, and Morgantown have EACH had more over this summer than Martinsburg has had over 5 years.

  • rcfx1

    The bigger issue is why did morth middle advance the kid when he wasn't qualified.

  • MHS183

    hey Paul hatter get a life this is a kid you so proudly criticize . Every high school has there share of problems not just for SSAC they have had their share of problems also. I had a privilege to talk to a board member who told me don't take SSAC SO HEARTLY.

  • Ohio

    Funny reading all of this. I moved here from Ohio. We have a couple more high school football teams in my home state. This is HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL. Not the Big Ten, SEC, etc. Kind of sickens me that the WVSSAC acts like the NCAA. Pretty sad. High school kids trying to compete and have fun. WVSSAC needs to find other ways to spend their time. Maybe to help increase attendance at football games statewide. Maybe helping WV kids get noticed by colleges that can give scholarships. Not by policing high school athletics like they are Roger Goodell. Really sad in my opinion.

  • brannon

    Ssac is a joke sometimes let the kid play what's the difference if he would have failed? That should show the state academic standard needs to be raised. He's played 3 years high school and under the age limit

  • Old school

    I just now read all of the responses since I posted.... Many good points, but I am surprised that no one addressed the major premise of my blog.... The wvssac's (lower case intended) negligence in dealing with the situation when it first occured.... Instead of picking sides people, address the "governing authority" (extreme sarcasm intended) that has allowed this situation to arise. Yes. I played ball, but now I am a band geek parent and have to do fund raisers to keep the band playing on the field. (Not in the burg) We are side by side with football booster parents raising $ to keep their kids on the field as well. Have u seen the wvssac fund raisers at the games.... NO!! They are funded by our state tax dollars (as are the principles who supposedly make the athletic rules and who academically lead WV schools to the bottom of national rankings). If their job is to rule on eligibility, THEN DO IT when a situation first occurs!!! Justice delayed is justice denied, and what about the legal term Statute of Limitations. Once the boy was allowed to play at Hedgesville as a freshman,, the wvssac implicitly approved his status. When he transferred to MHS and it was not questioned, the "governing body" (see above) implicitly approved his status. You Hedgesville haters, you Martinsburg haters and u without a dog (pun unintended) in this fight, direct your anger where it belongs..... A worthless bureaucratic body that is paid to oversee, but only reacts when the excrement hits the Hvac system. Our kids deserve better than this, and I feel for the Watkins family to have to go through this,. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

  • Jeff

    Knowing what I know about the academics at St. James, how did a kid who was only able to make Bs and Cs qualify at all?

  • Shadow

    After reading all the comments, I wonder who and for what reason was this rule written by the SSAC? What coach or school was the benefactor? Who was discriminated against some time ago? No one has come forth to really explain why it was placed in the book. Then, the question becomes, are they ashamed of it? If I had been a part of approving it, I would keep my mouth shut and never admit to being a part of this debacle.

  • EP Haters

    So let's wait until this whole thing is finalized. We learned last year with the Elkins situation how the WVSSAC sometimes jumps the gun without doing its due diligence. I can assure you that MHS will accept the final decision, all they want is their right of appeal without absorbing any unfair consequences along the way. If they sent the appeal, they'll move on

  • EP Haters

    It seems to me as if everyone is taking this situation and creating their own theories on how/why MHS cheated and has been for years. School reps will be accompanied by the Berkeley County BOE Friday and the permanent injunction will be handed down. They will not interfere with the decision process as some of you assume others think will happen. This is only to allow him to play until the WVSSAC grants him an official appeal. Some of you think this is a homer decision handed down by a MHS if he would perform unethically and risk his standing with his regulatory body for a high school sport without cause? My opinion, the WVSSAC grants their appeal as soon as possible.

  • John

    I would be willing to bet if it were a Charleston, Parkersburg, or Morgantown school the ruling would be different.