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Poland athletics and OHSAA speak out on eligibility case

September 18, 2012
By J.T. Whitehouse , Town Crier

A former Poland student's transfer to Mooney has sparked responses from Poland's Athletic Department and the Ohio High School Athletic Association. The case was to be heard on Tuesday with a ruling possible afterwards.

The case involved the transfer of Nick Bilas, who was a varsity starter of the football team in 2011 during his sophomore year. In March, he transferred to Mooney. His father, Marine Maj. John Bilas had accepted a promotion and was stationed in Washington. According to a spokesperson for the family's attorney, it meant having a mortgage in Washington and Poland, which was a financial burden. The family decided to sell their Poland home and move in with a grandfather in Youngstown. The legal matters came up when the OHSAA ruled that Bilas would have to sit out a year of eligibility with Mooney and the case went to a hearing where Judge Scott Krichbaum granted a temporary restraining order allowing Bilas to play for the Cardinals until the hearing.

Poland Athletic Director Brian Banfield said there are accusations that Poland Schools initiated the whole matter with the OHSAA.

"There was an indication that we were trying to go after the kid and his family," Banfield said. "That is not the case."

He said the whole thing started in March when Bilas transferred to Mooney. In June, Poland Schools was contacted by the OHSAA regarding the case. He said the OHSAA had completed an investigation on their own and had asked Poland to verify their findings.

"I drove by the house on June 25 and looked for signs that the family had moved," Banfield said. "There were no for sale signs, the U.S. and Marine flags were still flying on the flagpole and the garage door was up with a vehicle in it."

He said a further check on the county auditor's web site still listed the family as owners. He said he turned that information in to the OHSAA who was trying to make a decision on whether the move was athletically motivated or not.

Shortly afterwards, the OHSAA made a ruling that Bilas did not meet any of the exceptions to the transfer by-law and as a result would be ineligible to play football for one year, basically sitting out his junior year.

The family appealed the decision and on Aug. 13 that appeal was denied. On Aug. 24, a restraining order was issued to stop OHSAA from enforcing its ruling and allowing the student to play on the Mooney team.

As far as initiating the whole situation, OHSAA Commissioner Daniel B. Ross, Ph.D. issued a release on Sept. 6 that read, "In the matter of the student transfer from Poland Seminary to Cardinal Mooney a transfer that took place in March the Poland administrators and personnel became involved only after the Commissioner's Office reached out to them for input about whether a change of residence had occurred and what may have caused the transfer."

It continued, "Therefore, to be clear, no one from Poland Seminary initiated the concern over this particular student's transfer. Instead, the normal OHSAA proceedings were followed in which Cardinal Mooney administrators asked for a ruling on the student, and the OHSAA sought out administrators and coaches from Poland to provide feedback to assist in making the ruling."

Banfield said in June he was just doing his job as requested by the OHSAA. He said he didn't hear about the father's promotion until the August hearing.

Attorney Denise Glanatsis-Bayer, council for the Bilas family, said, "They (Poland) framed their response so the OHSAA would think this was athletically motivated," she said.

On the other side of the coin, there has been talk that Mooney recruited Bilas. Glinatsis-Bayer said that was not the case and that it was all due to a military family trying to make a wise financial decision by selling their home and moving in with a grandparent.

As for Mooney's comments on that issue, Principal John Young said, "There absolutely was no recruitment. The family came to us."



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