Minnehaha Academy football athlete fights for appeal to play senior season

A standout high school football player faced the Minnesota State High School League Monday to argue for the board to overturn a previous ruling that banned him from the field.

“When I was in 8th grade my parents decided for me to re-classify into my right grade with my right age,” said Craig McDonald at the meeting.

With his family and dozens of supporters behind him, Craig McDonald spoke to the board, which will determine if he gets to finish his prestigious football career at Minnehaha Academy.

At issue is the league's Bylaw 110, which mandates that varsity athletes can only play 12 consecutive semesters starting in 7th grade.

"What that does is give every student athlete in Minnesota at the high school level a ticking clock that starts at 7th grade," said Lee Hutton, the McDonald family attorney.

McDonald's parents put him in kindergarten at four years old and told FOX 9 he was always academically and socially behind, so when he transferred to Minnehaha they thought it would be wise to have him repeat 8th grade, which then violated this rule.

“Sometimes, I feel like it’s a no ask, no tell rule," said Shaun McDonald, Craig's mother.

Shaun McDonald and her husband say when they held Craig back, football was not a priority. In fact, the 17-year-old didn't start playing varsity until his sophomore year. This past year, his skills really took off and he started to get recruited by some big Division I programs and it was during a discussion with a potential coach when Craig mentioned he repeated 8th grade. That started an investigation into his eligibility for next year.

“He’s adamant about playing his senior year of football, which he should be allowed to,” said Scott McDonald, Craig’s father. “He absolutely should be allowed to.”

Because of a miscommunication between the board and the school's athletic director, Craig's name was not even on the agenda at Monday’s meeting, so an official decision will be delayed until a later date.

McDonald has already committed to Iowa State's program, but learned he can't even play junior varsity next year, so there's a chance he won't be on the field at all his senior year. His family says that might cause them to move out of state so he can play.