One week after Millikan’s administration announced that the school’s football team was forfeiting four wins this season, plenty of questions still remain about what’s coming for the Rams’ program.
Millikan assistant principal over athletics Daniel Yu confirmed last week that the Rams are forfeiting their four wins so far this season due to use of an ineligible player.
“We’ve been informed by the (CIF) regarding an eligibility issue with one of our players, and we are forfeiting our games that we’ve won up to this point,” he said.
Yu also said that Millikan coach Angel Molina will be the Rams’ interim head coach in place of Millikan head coach Romeo Pellum. Yu declined comment on the coaching situation.
“We’re hoping that this gets resolved quickly for the sake of our student-athletes, they’ve put in a lot of work,” he said.
The CIF Southern Section confirmed that the Rams were forfeiting the victories.
“We have received an official letter from Millikan HS forfeiting four wins,” said CIF-SS spokesperson Thom Simmons. “As these are self-imposed sanctions and involved student privacy I would need to refer you back to the school or school district for any further comment.”
Millikan principal Alejandro Vega wrote a message to the Millikan football families confirming the forfeits and added, “Please note that this will not impact our ability to participate in CIF playoffs. Additionally, our Athletic Leadership team and I spoke to team during lunch. They are aware of our support as they continue a successful season. We appreciate the hard work and dedication of our players and coaches so far this season. We will continue to work hard as we recover from this setback and resume league play.”
The school has offered no further comment or clarification, however, leaving a vacuum of information into which the usual rumors went swirling over the last several days. In more than two dozen interviews with LBUSD, Millikan, and Rams football sources, the picture has become clearer, although with many questions left unanswered. Everyone interviewed did so under condition of anonymity since they aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the subject.
Sources confirm that the forfeits were caused by the use of an ineligible player in the Rams’ first five games, in which they went 4-1. That player’s eligibility listing on the CIF-SS transfer approvals page changed last week from “eligible” under a valid change of residence to “under review.” It is the562.org’s policy not to identify individual students by names in stories involving forfeits.
Sources said that the address for the student-athlete, who transferred from out of district earlier this year, did not come into question because of a report from a parent or a rival school or something originating with the CIF-SS office, but because of a transcript check as part of the NCAA recruiting process. LBUSD officials then conducted an address check and the student-athlete was deemed ineligible which necessitated the forfeits, according to sources.
Forfeits in Long Beach aren’t common but they aren’t rare, either–Cabrillo forfeit four games the week prior due to using an ineligible player, who had not met the minimum age requirement to play varsity football. In the last decade, every LBUSD high school football program has forfeit wins due to use of an ineligible player. In none of those instances was the head coach put on leave, as was the case with Pellum.
Sources confirmed that Pellum and the Rams program are under an “investigation” by the LBUSD, with the results of that investigation to determine whether Pellum remains as Millikan’s coach. Contrary to rumors, Pellum has not stepped down nor has he been fired, although he is not currently in touch with the Millikan team as the investigation is carried out.
The Rams won a big game against Jordan on Friday, the day after the forfeits were announced. The team’s admirable performance helped to dispel some of the other rumors–there was no rift between teammates on the field in the 58-54 thriller, and only one player was sidelined due to ineligibility, not a larger amount as had been rumored.
Other rumors since proven to be false ranged from claims that half the Rams’ team was ineligible to claims that the program was under investigation for paying players to the claim that a disgruntled Millikan parent had intentionally informed on a player in order to cause the forfeits and harm Pellum.
Even with the forfeits, the Rams’ playoff path is still essentially the same as it was prior. CalPreps’ ranking system, which is used to determine playoff divisions, doesn’t recognize on-field wins that were forfeited as losses, which means Millikan is exactly where they were two weeks ago in their rankings. As long as Millikan finishes in the top three spots in the Moore League they’ll be an automatic qualifier for the postseason–and they already hold a tiebreaker against Jordan thanks to last week’s dramatic win.
While there’s some certainty as far as what the next month looks like for Millikan–win in the Moore League and make the playoffs–there are still questions, too. How long will the investigation into Pellum and the football program last, and what will its results be are chief among those unanswered questions. There are only four weeks left until the playoffs, and the Rams will host Long Beach Poly this Friday at 7 p.m.