DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — A local youth football organization called “Gem City Youth Conference” is facing backlash after declaring first- and sixth-graders ineligible for playoffs due to residency rules for players and the organization they play for.

All teams within the conference have been informed that waivers granted to players in order to be eligible at the beginning of regular season have now been revoked.

The Gem City Youth Conference is composed of eight teams from all over the Dayton area. Those teams include Beavercreek, Centerville, Xenia, Huber Heights, Mad River and more.

At the beginning of the regular season, an investigation was conducted into players’ eligibility to play since joining was open enrollment. The investigation was completed with kids granted permission to play for the season.

The waivers were applied for by parents and organizations in early August and leading into September. The waivers guaranteed that players would be qualified for the 2023 season, including the playoffs.

Now that is not the case, with kids being sidelined for the playoffs, sparking outrage among parents.

Sonya Hunt is a mother of two boys who play for the Mad River Indians. Both have been denied the ability to compete in the playoffs.

“We are a family here at Mad River,” said Hunt, “and it’s just terrible what they’re doing to us.

“It’s terrible for an 8-year-old and 10-year-old to work as hard as they did — blood, sweat, tears on these fields — and then to be denied the one game that they work for all season.”

Besides the children, Hunt said it’s also devastating for the parents, who have put in not just time but money. Parents at the beginning of the season had to pay $250 per player.

Gem City Youth Conference sent the following response when asked to comment:

It has come to our attention that there is misinformation circulating regarding player eligibility for the upcoming league playoffs. As an organization, we want to address and correct any misconceptions to ensure that our families are well-informed.

The GCYC Board of Directors is a volunteer governing board that oversees the youth football and cheer programs of eight different clubs. The Board is composed of two commissioners, eight club Presidents, a secretary and a treasurer. Its goal is to uphold the rules and responsibilities of its club members and league commitments.

Each year, the clubs are responsible for their own registration of football and cheer participants. Registration is mandated by the GCYC bylaws and playing rules so that each club ensures the appropriate age and residency requirements for all participants. The Presidents of each club sign a statement of confirmation that each club is in compliance with all rules for registration prior to the start of the season (they all completed this paperwork in August).

Early in the season, there were residency questions that were brought to the GCYC Board of Directors for investigation. This investigation led to a league-wide registration audit resulting in approximately 50 players that did not meet residency requirements for various reasons in five out of the eight clubs – clearly a league-wide issue rather than only one particular club. Per recommendation by the Commissioners, a waiver was approved by the Board of Directors to deviate from the bylaws and allow the ineligible players to finish the regular season of play. With other programs already closed by that point in time (September) and a third of the season completed, these ineligible kids would not have been able to play football elsewhere and they would have been left with no opportunity to play if removed from the GCYC. The Board of Directors also agreed that the waiver was for the regular season only and did not include eligibility for playoffs. In addition, it was agreed by the Board of Directors that the ineligible players would be reviewed prior to playoffs for a final determination for participation.

That decision was final on Sunday evening, October 8th, after all regular season games were complete. It upheld the previous decision to not allow ineligible players to compete in playoffs for fairness to all players in the program.

Upon reflection, it is clear that the miscommunication started when the decision to allow players to finish their regular season games but not participate in playoffs was approved. Club Presidents communicated that decision to their families and the message was not consistent across the league. In hindsight, the GCYC Board of Directors should have taken the lead on that communication so that all clubs were clear on the decision and they would have received identical information. We do apologize for not leading that effort. We also realize there are many families who do not agree with the decision and are upset, especially if the communication to them differed from the previous message.

At this time, the league will continue with its decision to move into playoffs with eligible players only. While this is upsetting to some, the 1500+ eligible kids in the program also deserve fairness in competition. Moving forward, the GCYC Board of Directors has already committed to review and update 2024 club registration in the off-season to ensure fairness and consistency across all clubs with the hopes of preventing ineligibility questions for future families.

GCYC Board of Directors