Tattoo exposes wild identity swap scandal
An American high school has had its 2019 season blown up and its entire coaching staff terminated on the spot after it was busted executing an extraordinary attempt to field an illegal player this season.
St Louis high school Cardinal Ritter has had its perfect, undefeated 7-0 season thrown in the trash and its football program cancelled for the remainder of the year after a disqualified player was given a new identity to take the field this season.
The school's board announced on Friday that the team's season had been cancelled and its first seven victories have been officially overturned as forfeits after star running back Bill Jackson was found to have been snuck onto the team's roster for the first game of the season, despite being banned from a suspension the previous year.
In an extraordinary plot, the team's coaching staff are accused of giving Jackson the new identity of a teammate and switching him from his No. 4 jersey to the No. 24 jersey of younger teammate Marvin Burks.
Jackson was automatically suspended for one game after he was ejected in the state championship final game of the 2018 season.
Instead of serving that suspension in the first week of the season, Cardinal Ritter tried to give him a new identity to allow him to play anyway - and then they doubled down on it by telling reporters after the game that they were looking forward to getting Jackson back into their line-up for the second game of the season.
Both Jackson and head coach Brandon Gregory told local news site stltoday.com that Jackson had been stood down for the season-opener. He hadn't.
"He earned it, he deserved it. It was his time to play ball," Gregory said.
Jackson said: "Watching last week, it wasn't fun at all," Jackson said. "It gave me a spark."
The operation was reportedly discovered when photos from the opening two games of the season showed Jackson's unique tattoos in both games - wearing the No. 24 jersey in the first week and the No. 4 jersey in the second week.
The unique tattoos on Jackson's right bicep and forearm were the key evidence that exposed the Cardinal Ritter plot.
The school immediately launched an investigation and it was concluded last week that the team's 2019 season was unsalvageable.
Because Jackson had never served his one-week ban, the school accepted that it had fielded an illegal player in all seven games this season.
The school then announced that the entire coaching staff for the football program had been "permanently released from Cardinal Ritter College Prep immediately."
After losing his job, Gregory has conducted two TV interviews to defend himself, insisting it was simply an innocent mistake to play Jackson in the first round of the season.
He insisted he did not realise Jackson was suspended for the first week of the season and claimed the fact he wore the No. 24 was simply because his players regularly switch jerseys without the knowledge of the coaching staff.
His latest claims are in direct contradiction to his interviews with St Louis Today in September where he said Jackson had been stood down for the first game of the year.
"That's kinda my wrongdoing of not knowing the rules and that he shouldn't have not sat out the jamboree, he should have sat out week one so that's what happened," Gregory told KMOV4 News.
Gregory added that he is "numb and in shock," but it shouldn't "change his character or anything I have done in past."