In a surprising twist, Dylan Cozens has been ruled eligible to play for the Chaparral baseball team.
The senior pitcher/outfielder was deemed ineligible for 365 days after transferring from Desert Mountain to Chaparral in early April of last year. Cozens was removed from the Wolves baseball team on April 4, 2011, and the Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaw 15:10:10 states that a student who is removed from a school for disciplinary reasons is ineligible to play at another school for one year.
Cozens was not suspended or expelled from school, but the AIA originally ruled that his removal from the Desert Mountain baseball team and subsequent transfer fell under the bylaw’s enforcement umbrella.
Cozens, a top prospect, sat out the remainder of last season at Chaparral after the ruling, but returned to the diamond and has played since the Feb. 22 season opener, approximately six weeks before the 365 days had elapsed.
Last Thursday, AIA Chief Operating Officer Chuck Schmidt sounded surprise when he learned Cozens was playing for the Firebids. He originally thought Cozens should be ineligible for a calendar year from the day he enrolled at Chaparral, but changed his opinion after gathering input from the school.
“Based on the information I have received, I would agree with their interpretation,” Schmidt said Tuesday. “There was dialogue between the two schools to provide clarity.”
The bylaw also states that an athlete can become eligible before the 365 days elapses if all conditions for re-admittance have been fulfilled at the high school where the removal for disciplinary reasons occurred.
Schmidt did not offer specifics on the conversation between Desert Mountain and Chaparral, but a source familiar with Desert Mountain’s thinking said the school never wavered from its position that Cozens was removed from the team, and, since he transferred, never met the conditions for re-admittance.
Schmidt said an athlete is not automatically ineligible for the full 365 days at the new school.
“It depends on the facts,” he said.
Chaparral baseball coach/athletic director Sam Messina has used Cozens from the beginning of the season. Last Wednesday, he said he couldn’t discuss Cozens’ eligibility status in detail.
Phone messages left for Messina and Scottsdale Unified School District A.D. Clif McKenzie were not immediately returned.
“I’m assuming he’s eligible,” Messina said last week. “I’m playing him.”
One of Messina’s justifications for playing Cozens was because he was eligible for football in the fall, although Schmidt said Cozens could play football because he did not play the sport at Desert Mountain prior to the transfer.
Schmidt said last April’s decision to rule Cozens ineligible, and the current one deeming him eligible are both correct.
“There was a question brought forward, and, based on the facts that were then vetted, Chaparral made the correct decision,” Schmidt said.
Cozens is a two-sport standout who has committed to play football and baseball at Arizona. He will likely be selected in the Major League Baseball amateur draft in June and could choose to turn professional.
The Firebirds are 5-3 on the season and 1-0 in power point games. They won the 5A Division II championship last season and are fifth in the Tribune’s Division I rankings. Desert Mountain is currently No. 1.