On Wednesday, the junior wide receiver was deemed ineligible to play sports at Myrtle Beach High. This came after he had spent the summer and preseason practicing with the Seahawks, and after the start of the academic year came and went without any indication that he would not be allowed to play football or basketball in 2019-2020.
In question is Jones’ transfer from Socastee, where he was a budding star in both sports. However, his family members have been unable to determine who made the decision about his eligibility and why.
“[Horry County Schools] continued to delay giving us any decision and then 48 hours before the first game they deemed him ineligible for the entire year,” said Jon Jones, J.J.’s father. “We were told that we were not allowed to be provided details of the decision. We are frustrated and upset that they would wait so long to make a decision. They refuse to provide us with details as to why he is ineligible, and they never asked for any information from us about any issues that may deem him ineligible.”
The family has retained an attorney in an effort to regain J.J. Jones’ athletic eligibility, but Jon Jones said that so far it has not yielded results.
Velna Allen, the district’s Chief Officer of Student Services, did not return a voice message seeking comment, nor did Socastee Principal Jeremy Rich. Thursday evening, the district released a three-sentence statement on the matter, through spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier, to MyHorryNews.com.
“Individual student information is confidential in nature. From a SCHSL regulation standpoint, high school eligibility is determined at the school level, not the District,” the statement read.
When asked if that meant HCS was not involved in the decision, a reply stated “High school eligibility is determined at the school level (by the high school).”
That began a circular process in which everything has continued to point back to the district calling the shots and/or enforcing a transfer rejection from Socastee, not Myrtle Beach High School or the South Carolina High School League deeming Jones to be ineligible.
When reached for comment, Myrtle Beach Principal Zach McQuigg referred MyHorryNews.com back to Horry County Schools. SCHSL Associate Commissioner Charlie Wentzky said Friday that there are currently no eligibility issues from this area on the governing body’s radar.
He added that control in these types of situations is often much more localized than people frequently believe it to be.
“Any school or district has the ability to not allow someone to [participate in athletics],” Wentzky said. “If the district ultimately deems a kid to be ineligible, it stops there. … We’re there as a catch-net.”
Speaking globally because of lack of knowledge of this particular situation (not to mention confidentiality issues if he did), Wentzky pointed to two caveats that districts typically cite when determining eligibility.
The first is whether the student was eligible to participate in athletics in his prior school. Jones had no known discipline issues, was a member of non-athletic extracurriculars and Jon Jones said that his son carried a weighted 4.2 grade-point average at Socastee.
Secondly, student-athletes are not allowed to transfer to a school where one of the sports he or she plays is coached by someone who also coached the student-athlete in a club sport. That wasn’t the case here, either.
That leaves the two elephants in the room.
The SCHSL has no open cases involving recruiting for any Horry County football programs, something that would have been identified by the league by now because of bigger implications, including possible discipline. No member of the football staff at Myrtle Beach has been disciplined or even investigated by the district or SCHSL for recruiting, which also would have happened by now.
“We had a bonafide change of address in which we physically moved into the Myrtle Beach [zone],” Jon Jones said.
Amid the athletics-based eligibility rulings in matters such as this is a crucial and published academic district policy that backs up Jones’ claim. Currently, J.J. Jones is enrolled at Myrtle Beach, and the family has not been told he would have to transfer back to Socastee.
That is important because Myrtle Beach is one of two “red zone” high schools in the district (along with St. James). Students who are not living in the Myrtle Beach zone are not allowed to transfer in because the school has been deemed to be near, at or over capacity.
That means if pure residency was an issue with Jones, he would not have been allowed to enroll at Myrtle Beach for academics, let alone athletics.
However, he did enroll and began classes last week. Eight school days later, he was notified about the athletics rejection, with an explanation still yet to follow.