PREP FOCUS: Officials discovered home-schooled junior was on wrong team
by: DENISE FARWELL, John Collier has to watch his former Madison teammates play without him. The home-schooled junior, it was discovered, lives outside the school’s boundary and is ineligible to play for the team.

Madison High shortstop John Collier was stunned last week when officials told him, 'You're out!' -for the season, and maybe for the rest of his career at the school.

Collier, a home-schooled junior, was in the middle of his third year of baseball for Madison. His brother, James, previously played three seasons for the Senators.

'When we asked eight years ago, we were told we were on the line and could go to Madison or Grant,' says Joel Collier, their father. 'The boys chose Madison, so they could play baseball with their friends.'

But about a week ago, Madison officials noticed that the Colliers' home of 13 years, at Northeast 52nd Avenue and Irving Street, is in the Grant district, about four blocks outside the Madison boundary.

'I was called to the athletic director's office,' John Collier says. 'He said, 'You should be playing at Grant. There's nothing I can do.'

'It's kind of hard, kind of frustrating,' Collier says. 'It was fun playing with my friends. I've played with a lot of them since Rose City Little League.'

For six years - John also ran cross country last fall -the boys had been approved to play for Madison.

'Adults screwed this up,' first-year Madison baseball coach Mike Keller says. 'And it seems no one has the authority to let him play.'

Tom Welter, executive director of the Oregon Schools Activities Association, says apparently neither his organization, which oversees high school sports, nor the Oregon Department of Education, nor Portland Public Schools, nor the Portland Interscholastic League, can hear an appeal from the Colliers.

'Home-school students can only play for the school in whose boundaries they live,' Welter says.

Joel Collier says he was told it is too late for John to enroll at Madison -even for next school year.

'It's been a total shock and setback. It's taken a toll on our family,' he says. 'The only two options I see - and maybe something else will emerge - is to talk to Grant and see if they would allow John to play for them, or just sit out till we try to find a place for him to play American Legion ball this summer.'

Grant baseball coach Rob Kennewell says he would be open to hearing from the family. But John Collier has mixed emotions. 'It would feel good to get to play again,' he says, 'but if I played for Grant, it would feel like I was abandoning my team.'

Jeremy Collier, a seventh-grader also being home-schooled, would like to play baseball for Madison, too.

Another, much more complex option: The Colliers could sell their home, move into the Madison district and then appeal to the school district for John's eligibility.

'That's not a great option,' says Joel Collier, associate pastor of Richmond Community Church in Southeast Portland.

Meanwhile, House Bill 3149 is waiting to be heard in the Oregon Legislature. Among other things, it would enable home-school students to play for any school within their district.

Keller, meanwhile, is trying to rebuild a former state powerhouse. The Senators lost 19-0 at home Friday to Cleveland and are 2-9 - and Welter says they probably will have to forfeit those wins for using an ineligible player (Collier). Keller, who starred for Madison in the class of 1975, is the school's fourth coach in five years. He has only 14 players, some of whom haven't played in years. Madison does not have a freshman or JV team.

'What's driving me nuts,' Keller says, 'is that it's not like Madison's going to win the state title with or without John. We're just barely on the field. But he's one of our better players. He'd like to play some junior college ball, but he'll have to work really hard to get there.

'But John's a leader for us. Everybody likes and respects him. The kids are all down about this.'

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