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Cameron Smith

Homeless player still ineligible while Florida coach returns to field

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

A homeless football player in Florida has been declared ineligible days after the coach who housed him returned to action following a one-game suspension. Now St. Cloud (Fla.) High is fighting the Florida High School Athletic Association to get the player reinstated.

Bill Buldini, St. Cloud's first-year coach, was suspended for one game during an FHSAA investigation into why he provided free housing to one of his players, whom he had discovered was homeless. After the school learned Buldini was housing a player, it self-reported the FHSAA violation, and Buldini was unable to coach while the association investigated the situation.

According to OrlandoSentinel.com, that investigation moved far enough along that Buldini was allowed to return to action for the Bulldogs' 27-18 victory over Evans (Fla.) High on Friday.

That's not the case for the player, who has been indefinitely ruled ineligible, according to the St. Cloud athletic director.

"[Buldini is] our football coach and the player has been ruled ineligible," St. Cloud athletic director Chad Ansbaugh told OrlandoSentinel.com. "That's really all I'm allowed to say about it right now. We're appealing [the player's eligibility], but that's the current situation. [...]

"Any appeal we do will be on our student's behalf."

While St. Cloud would like to get its ineligible player back on the field, it's likely that the program will have to wait a full month before any chance for that emerges. According to the Sentinel, the FHSAA is unlikely to hear his case before its next Section 1 Appeals Committee meeting, which is Nov. 7.

"The FHSAA is currently looking into the situation," an Association statement on the St. Cloud investigation read. "As per FHSAA policies, the Association cannot comment on any open or ongoing issues. There is no timetable for when this matter will be resolved."

By Nov. 7, the Bulldogs will have only two remaining games (at Harmony and Gateway High Schools), with the homeless player forced to miss four more games before the likely hearing date. That would bring the player's total missed games to six, more than half of the Bulldogs' full schedule.

While the FHSAA might uncover something that indicated foul play in its investigation, it's also entirely possible that it would not, which would mean that it punished a homeless player for more than half a season essentially just for being homeless. That hardly seems fair. Given the circumstances, a more expeditious hearing would seem like a wise choice for the FHSAA, though there's no indication that is likely, or even possible.

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