Confusion over a player’s possible transfer has forced defending Class A champion Millard North to forfeit 14 volleyball victories.
It’s also turned into a life lesson for the player and her family.
The Mustangs recently were informed of the penalty by the Nebraska School Activities Association. Millard North’s record remains 16-8 on the NSAA website but Executive Director Jay Bellar said that mark will be amended before district play.
Bellar said the NSAA received information from another school that Millard North had been using an ineligible player. Several sources confirmed the other school was Omaha Burke, where the player — London Emmons — had considered transferring for her senior year.
“We did our fact-finding and found the information to be true,’’ Bellar said. “It’s an unfortunate deal for both schools.’’
The problem arose when Emmons, a senior defensive specialist, filled out the necessary paperwork last spring to attend Burke. Her name was placed on the NSAA’s May 1 transfer list, though she changed her mind and decided to stay at Millard North.
NSAA bylaws state that a student whose name is on that list but doesn’t transfer must sit out 90 school days of any extracurricular activity.
Emmons did not do that, which led to the NSAA penalty.
“The Millard North administration apparently didn’t become aware of it until just recently,’’ Bellar said. “We did what we thought was right.’’
Millard North Athletic Director Chad Zimmerman said it was an unfortunate situation for everyone involved.
“The family feels bad and the player feels like she let the team down,’’ he said. “But we understand there are rules and we’re ready to move on.’’
Emmons’ father, Mark, said his family didn’t understand the May 1 transfer rule and the ramifications behind it.
“I was shocked when we found out about it,’’ he said. “I really wish there was some sort of paperwork that we could have read and signed to really understand it.’’
Zimmerman said the transfer process can be complicated and that parents — and even administrators — can struggle with the rules. He added the growing number of students who transfer also can cause confusion between schools.
“We need to do a better job of educating people about this,’’ he said. “There can be implications if a mistake is made.’’
Mark Emmons said his family takes responsibility because his daughter signed up for classes at Burke, though she later decided to stay at Millard North after speaking with a counselor.
He added that it’s frustrating that the Mustangs are being punished so severely because of a player whose statistical impact on the team has been limited. London has 51 digs this season, an average of 1.4 per set.
“London is a role player,’’ he said. “She did her best when she got the opportunity to play.’’
Emmons said he received the ruling via text Tuesday from the NSAA.
“It was a belly punch,’’ he said. “We thought the whole situation was less of a violation and more of a misunderstanding.’’
Emmons said after he got the text, he drove to Burke to speak with administrators.
“I wanted them to know that we took responsibility for it,’’ he said. “We don’t hold any kind of a grudge against them.’’
The day the Emmons family received the NSAA ruling coincided with senior night at Millard North. London, no longer an official member of the team and wearing street clothes, was introduced before the match as the team manager.
“Now she shags balls and does whatever she can,’’ Mark Emmons said. “She’s trying to keep a positive attitude.’’
Emmons said other team parents and players have been supportive since the ruling. He added that McKenna Ruch, a UNO recruit sidelined much of this season by a broken finger, was one of the most vocal at a recent meeting.
“She said, ‘Let’s be the first team to win state with 21 losses,’ ’’ he said.
This is the third time in nine years that Millard North been cited midseason by the NSAA. The football team forfeited three wins in 2011 for using an ineligible player and the girls basketball team forfeited four games in 2017 after a player was ruled academically ineligible.
Though the volleyball forfeits haven’t yet changed the Mustangs’ won-loss record, the change is reflected in the NSAA point system. Millard North has dropped from fourth place at 43.83 to 24th at 37.42.
The Mustangs also are seeded 13th in next week’s 18-team Metro Conference tournament.
The NSAA did not refigure the Millard North opponents’ wild-card points based on the forfeits.
Zimmerman said he understands there are rules in place but questioned the severity of the penalty when London Emmons never left Millard North.
“It wasn’t our intent to do anything wrong and we weren’t trying to gain an unfair advantage,’’ he said. “We’ll take the blame, but it’s frustrating.’’
Mark Emmons said he hopes the incident is a lesson for all parents of athletes who are considering a transfer.
“It’s been a tough deal,’’ he said. “Hopefully this doesn’t happen to another family and another team.’’