The Utah High School Activities Association unanimously deemed two Jordan football players from California athletically ineligible Tuesday afternoon, in part because the group found signatures on the boys' hardship waiver requests to be forgeries.
Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata and Clifford Betson, two distantly related then-juniors living 40 miles apart in the Bay Area, wound up living with the same uncle, Stuart Tua, in Sandy this spring. They testified that their parents wished for them to escape dangerous neighborhoods wrought with gun violence and drugs.
But the UHSAA panel determined that the situation didn't merit a hardship waiver, which the UHSAA generally defines as a specific act or event that creates an unavoidable burden on the athletes' families. The ruling ensured that the pair of receivers won't play for the No. 1-ranked Beetdiggers this fall.
It also didn't help that the UHSAA found that the signatures of the principals from their old high schools and at least two of the parental signatures had been forged. Tua invoked the Fifth Amendment, on advice of attorney Laura Lui, when asked if he had signed the papers.
"I think that had an impact on their credibility," UHSAA legal counsel Mark Van Wagoner said.
Lui showed evidence that the boys had improved academically since coming to Utah, and they testified that living in the Tua household was a safe haven for them. Fa'agata told about getting a gun pointed at him in a fight, while Betson recounted getting mugged on walks home from school.
Jordan principal Tom Sherwood said he thought the cases were worthy of hardship waivers, but the paperwork gaffe hurt their arguments.
"We didn't always expect them to play, and we didn't know what they'd bring to our team, and now we'll never know," Sherwood said. "It's unfortunate that the actions of some adults on their behalf affected their decision."
At least a portion of the proceedings seemed to be indirectly aimed at determining if the players were recruited.
The panel asked several questions about what the boys knew about the school and football program before coming to Utah, and both replied that they knew nothing.
Jordan coach Eric Kjar described Tua as a passionate fan of the program, but not a coach or a volunteer.
Californians denied Jordan eligibility
Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata • Senior tight end/cornerback from Encinal High (Alameda, Calif.)
Clifford Betson • Senior wide receiver from Salesian High (Richmond, Calif.)