The eligibility dispute of No. 1-rated pocket-passer quarterback David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./North) goes before the board of directors of the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association on Tuesday.
And according to Ed Sheakley, executive director of the OHSAA, it boils down to a decision made by the Cornwells to keep David out of school in 2011 when the family lived near Jacksonville, Fla.
“They made a choice to leave school,” Sheakley said in this article. “They also made a choice not to play football that year.”
Not so simple, said David’s father, Ron Cornwell.
It was a decision made out of necessity, he said, because of his wife’s health. Debbie Cornwell dealt with a debilitating illness that surfaced in July 2011 and last into the fall.
“We really couldn’t plan around it,” Ron Cornwell said. “The timing of this was one that lingered. We couldn’t plan around that. We kept expecting it to resolve.
David’s absence from school in the fall of 2011 jeopardizes his eligibility in 2013, because he has had an opportunity to complete four years of high school, as viewed by the OSSAA. He is seeking a hardship waiver, which would grant him an extra semester to compete at the high school level.
“Through all of this, it really came back to our family being first. David was there to help and manage that. If he could have made academic progress, he would have. And after that, it would have been football.”
Ron Cornwell said the family has provided all documentation requested to the OSSAA, including Debbie’s medical records.
They hired a lawyer in an attempt to gain even footing with OSSAA.
“The OSSAA has an attorney who’s very well known,” Ron Cornwell said. “They’ve got legal representation, so we just asked to do the same.”
Their attorney, Mitch McCuistian of Evans & Davis in Edmond, Okla., said he’s confident in the Cornwell case but wary of the OSSAA. The association has displayed a history of inconsistent actions and a lack of oversight, McCustian said.
“They have a long line of dictatorship, I guess you’d say,” he said, “and subjective views on how they handle things.”
Recently, two state representatives requested a study to investigate some practices of the OSSAA.
For now, the Cornwells’ primary concern involves Tuesday.
“I’m very confident in our case, that we’ve done everything right,” David said, “and have all the criteria met.”
His scholarship offers include Alabama, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Auburn, Virginia Tech and Miami. Cornwell transferred from Jones (Okla.) High School after last season to Norman North, which played for a state title in Oklahoma’s largest class a year ago, after the family sold its home in Florida. They had been renting in Jones and wanted to feel more a part of a community, David said. Additionally, David’s older brother transferred from South Carolina to the University of Oklahoma to live with the family in Norman.
David participated in spring practice at Norman North and has operated as if he’ll start the season at quarterback in three months.