Cardinal Ritter College Prep in St. Louis has nuked its entire football program.
Ritter president Tamiko Armstead announced Friday the school has decided to cancel the remainder of its 2019 season and dismiss its entire coaching staff. Additionally, AD Preston Thomas “has decided to retire.”
The statement did not address any specifics as to why the school made such a drastic decision, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the impetus for the decision was the coaching staff’s decision to play an ineligible player.
Junior running back Bill Jackson was ejected from the 2018 Missouri Class 3A state championship, and National Federation of State High School Association guidelines dictate that any player ejected from a game must be suspended for the next game, even if that game occurs in the following season.
Instead of sitting Jackson for the 2019 season opener, Ritter instead played him, wearing a different number and identifying him as a different player on the team roster. That allegation was first reported Tuesday by the Post-Dispatch. Jackson switched from No. 4 to No. 24 and was identified on the roster as one of his freshman teammates, but unique, identifying tattoos running down Jackson’s right arm blew his cover. Ritter’s opener was against Nazareth, the No. 1 Class 7A team in Illinois; Ritter won the game, 31-21, thanks to Jackson’s 109 yards and a touchdown.
Ritter had previously forfeited its first seven games and dismissed head coach Brandon Gregory, but the school elected to forfeit the remainder of the season and fire its entire coaching staff later in the day on Friday. Ritter began the season 7-0 and was the No. 1-ranked team in the state for its classification.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis, which oversees the school, did not indicate when Cardinal Ritter will restart its football program. “The priority right now for Ms. Armstead is to walk through this difficult time with the community and students.”
Friday’s news is the latest installment in a series of bizarre firings across high school football. A Louisiana school fired its coach after the team was videoed conducting a chant with a racial slur, an Arizona coach was fired for running up the score, and a fellow St. Louis-area coach says he was fired for following his players on social media.