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Ineligible player costs Southern 9 wins Superintendent rules Watkins too old


Southern High, the area's No. 2 boys basketball team, has forfeited nine victories in which it used an ineligible player.

Derrick Watkins, a 6-foot-5 senior forward who has not played for the Bulldogs since the Charm City Classic at Towson State on Jan. 18, was declared ineligible by Baltimore public schools superintendent Walter Amprey, according to Southern athletic director Don Wade.

Wade said that Southern alerted the superintendent's office that there might be a problem with Watkins' eligibility after a discrepancy was discovered during a routine check of Watkins' immunization records in December.

Wade said the school received a letter from Amprey yesterday with his decision.

"It came out today that someone has falsified records, but we don't know where," said Wade.

According to Wade, documents in Watkins' file contained three birth dates -- 1971, 1972 and 1973.

"We don't know how old he is," said Wade. "No one has ever verified what packet was incorrect."

Southern coach Meredith Smith said that information contained in a computer at the school showed Watkins' birth date as July 4, 1973, which would make him eligible under city rules. The city's age eligibility rule prohibits anyone from participating after his 19th birthday unless he turns 19 on or after Sept. 1.

If Watkins were born in 1971 or 1972, he would be ineligible.

Wade said the superintendent decided that, because of the discrepancies, there was no way to determine Watkins' age, and therefore he was declared ineligible.

The forfeits change today's MSA A Conference semifinals. Southern, which would have finished first in Division II with a 10-0 league record, would have met Lake Clifton, the second-place finisher in Division I.

Instead, Walbrook moves into first place in Division II and meets Lake Clifton tonight at Morgan at 6. Southern, which dropped to second place and 6-4 in the league with the forfeits, will take on Dunbar, the first-place finisher from Division I, at 8 p.m. at Morgan.

The winners meet in the conference title game as part of the Metro Classic Sunday at 7 p.m. at the Baltimore Arena.

The forfeits actually caused a tie between Southern and Cardinal Gibbons for second place. Both teams were 6-4 in the league after Gibbons picked up a forfeit victory from Southern.

However, the MSA's first tie-breaker is point differential. Gibbons' forfeit win goes in the records as a 2-0 victory, but Southern beat Gibbons, 67-49, Feb. 11 in a game in which Watkins did not participate.

Smith said the Southern players showed little emotion when informed of the forfeits yesterday.

"The kids haven't had any adverse reaction," he said. "They know the show must go on. They say whoever they play they hope to be ready for them. They knew eventually they would have to play Dunbar, assuming we had both won our semifinals [under the original format]."

Smith said the experience has left him bitter and suggested that someone may have tampered with Watkins' records.

"I'm somewhat bitter because, when you have certain documents that are provided, you rely on it as accurate information," he said. "All the documents we had indicated the kid was eligible. What are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to protect ourselves if the documents are supposed to be OK? Some other people need to be questioned."

Smith said Watkins has never said he was too old.

"I asked him what the deal was, but he never admitted to me that he was too old," Smith said.

"This is not about wins and losses," he added. "It's not about games and it's not about who finishes first or second. What bothers me is we are not in a position to protect ourselves if our student-athlete information is unreliable."

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