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June 3, 2013
David Cornwell will learn his fate Tuesday, and the Norman (Okla.) North four-star quarterback said he feels good things will turn out in his favor.
Cornwell, the No. 3 pro-style quarterback and the No. 66 prospect in the Rivals100, has been engaged in a legal battle with the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association board of directors. He was ruled ineligible for this coming season after not attending public school during the 2011 school year in Florida as he attended to his ill mother.
The Cornwell family and lawyer Mitch McCuistian from the law firm Evans & Davis are seeking to prove on appeal to the board of directors that Cornwell's situation meets the criteria to be granted an additional year of eligibility.
"[I am] very, very confident," Cornwell said during a phone conversation on Monday.
"Our case meets the OSSAA criteria written in our constitution exactly. So, very confident. I've been going about this the last couple weeks as just a normal kid, playing like I'm going to play. That's what I expect to happen. I would be really hurt and confused if that wasn't the case and I was ruled ineligible. It's tough."
This upcoming school year will be the fifth since the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Cornwell started at Omaha (Neb.) Millard South in the fall of 2009.
His family then moved to Florida in 2011, where Cornwell's mother became sick with an undisclosed illness, and he decided not to attend public school in the fall to care for her. Instead, he took home school classes.
According to The Oklahoman, Cornwell's mother, Debbie, lost more than 20 pounds in less than a month and has had a thyroid condition for 20 years. Her illness started in the late summer and continued into the fall where Cornwell was homeschooled and cared for his mother as his father was often away on business.
Cornwell, who is also represented by a public relations firm based in Oklahoma City, said his family did not discuss the legal ramifications of sitting out a year with lawyers before making that decision because it was not timely. His mother was sick and he wanted to be by her side.
"There was no time," Cornwell said. "It wasn't really planned like that. I was homeschooling and then my mom got sick, really, really sick. When you're in a family crisis, family comes first. The woman I love and has taken care of me my whole life is close to dying. You're like, 'Wow, we really have to get this together. I'll figure out all the other stuff later.' ... There is really no time."
McCuistian said based on his understanding of eligibility, it would not have mattered if Cornwell missed only the fall semester or the entire year of school in Florida. The clock starts once one's high school career commences and four years later it stops - unless there are special circumstances, and that is the contention McCuistian will argue for on Tuesday.
"It's one of those things when we go into the hearing tomorrow we'll re-hash where we're at with the case so far, and we have plans to introduce some new material and really kind of have some open discussion on the interpretation of the rules," McCuistian said.
After the family's stint in Florida, the Cornwells moved to Jones, Okla., where the four-star quarterback played his first season of varsity football in 2012 and threw for 2,742 yards with 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran for 755 yards and six touchdowns.
Offers started pouring in after such a stellar campaign for Cornwell, who just wrapped up Alabama's summer camp on Monday. The Crimson Tide along with Arkansas, Auburn, Indiana, Kansas, Miami, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Tennessee, Tulsa, Virginia Tech and Washington State have offered.
Cornwell said his legal wrangling with the OSSAA has been a cause of concern for college coaches. The prospect of sitting out an entire season is an issue for some coaches and something Cornwell does not want to even consider at this juncture.
"It's a big deal," Cornwell said. "I've only played one year of high school, a lot of these (coaches) want to see me play. That is a big deal. Almost every coach I talk to that I have interest in has said that's a big deal. 'We'd like you to play and we'd like to watch you play at Norman North.' That is a big deal and it has a lot tied in with my recruitment."
According to the OSSAA rules in regards to hardship waivers, "After the student has begun the ninth grade, an exception allowing a student the opportunity to participate in athletics in an additional semester or school year may only be granted upon sufficient proof that circumstances arose beyond the control of the student and the student's parents (or custodial parent or court-appointed guardian with legal custody of the student), such as a serious and debilitating injury or illness, which prevented the student from completing academic work necessary to advance to the next grade level and make normal progress toward graduation. An injury or illness that merely prevented athletic participation, but did not prevent the student from completing academic work, would not be sufficient to allow an exception.
"Applications for this exception must be accompanied by appropriate and credible documentation detailing the circumstances that prevented the student from advancing academically, such as medical records, doctor's reports, counselor's reports, and documentation detailing the student's academic progress and athletic participation to date, including school transcript and schedules. Submission of a written summary describing the circumstances that prevented the student from advancing academically, without any adequate supporting documentation, is not sufficient to grant an exception."
McCuistian will attempt to prove those extenuating circumstances on Tuesday. Cornwell said he's confident it will be sufficient.
"We're so confident in the case that I haven't even looked ahead to Plan B," Cornwell said. "It would be like if you were a normal kid playing high school ball do you think of what would happen if you possibly got injured or something? You don't really think about that stuff. I don't at least. Plan A is looking really good right now. I want to be here in Norman, I want to be a Timberwolf and I want to help these guys win a state title."