NORMAN — A day before the OSSAA hearing that will determine his future, Norman North quarterback David Cornwell believes he has everything he has everything he needs to play football in the fall.
The senior transferred to North last semester after a season at Jones, where he developed into one of the nation’s top quarterback recruits and received offers from such high-profile schools as Alabama, Miami and LSU. But a semester he spent out of school in 2011 has threatened to derail his plans to play one last high school season.
The OSSAA issued a preliminary ruling that bars Cornwell from playing this season because it comes more than four years after he started high school. Cornwell didn’t attend school in the fall semester of 2011 due to an illness in the family. He started back the following semester and didn’t realize there was an eligibility issue until he was contacted by the OSSAA in the spring.
The Cornwell family will present its case to the OSSAA on Tuesday, arguing that their case meets the criteria for a waiver granting an additional year of eligibility.
“I’m going into the meeting very confident,” he said. “It’s a big week for me and my family. This is a big deal for us and for my teammates. Everything we’ve done has complied with their rules and their constitution.”
According to OSSAA guidelines, the only reason an additional year of eligibility can be approved is in “circumstances that are outside the control of the student and his or her parents.”
The Cornwells believe their case meets the OSSAA’s criteria.
When David’s mother, Debbie Cornwell, became suddenly and direly sick in 2011, her son took the semester off to help care for her. Given the work travel schedule his father, Ron, had, David was his mom’s primary caretaker for an extended period of time as she recovered from a serious illness that the family declined to elaborate on.
At the time, Cornwell didn’t give any thought to how the semester off might affect his eligibility.
“Family comes first,” he said. “It was tough on me and my dad. How can I think about playing football when my mom is in trouble, when the woman who has taken care of me all my life is sick? When you’re in the midst of it you’re not thinking of anything but your family.”
Weeks after her condition improved but before Cornwell started back to school, he went on a previously planned 10-day mission trip to Africa. It will possibly be a sticking point as the OSSAA makes its case that taking a semester off was a personal decision and not a necessity.
OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley said that it’s extremely rare for an additional year of eligibility to be granted and that it requires specific criteria to be met.
Cornwell believes he meets those criteria and, after having gone through spring practice, is looking forward to his final semester at North, where he plans to graduate even if he isn’t allowed to step onto the football field.
“If I’m the quarterback or the waterboy, Norman is my residence this year,” he said. “There’s no Plan B. Plan A is looking great right now. I’m a Norman North Timberwolf.”
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