COF Academy no longer is considered a school and no longer will count for points to qualify for the state playoffs, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
COF Academy, which stands for Christians of Faith Academy, made a splash this summer when it unveiled a schedule that included such Ohio powers as Huber Heights Wayne, Cleveland St. Ignatius and Lakewood St. Edward and such out-of-state programs as North Allegheny in Wexford, Pennsylvania, and IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
The daunting schedule came as a surprise to many because COF Academy did not exist until this year and is classified through the Ohio Department of Education as a noncharter school not supported by taxes.
The OHSAA is the governing body of Ohio high school football and several other sports. Each year, the OHSAA football playoffs and state championship games are held to determine winners of each of Ohio’s seven divisions.
To make the playoffs, OHSAA-member teams score points on a scale. Beating teams in higher divisions is worth more points than lower divisions.
For a team to count toward those points, it must be a functional school approved by the OHSAA. The team does not have to be a member, but must provide enrollment numbers and proof it is an academic institution.
And now, according to spokesman Tim Stried, the OHSAA does not consider COF Academy an academic institution.
Stried said last week the organization began hearing reports that no classes had been held for COF Academy students. After trying and failing to verify that classes were taking place, OHSAA officials made the decision Sept. 21.
“We don’t believe they are a school at this point, so they’re not going to be included in this week’s computer ratings,” Stried said.
Last week, the organization that supposedly funded COF Academy, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said it never has had any affiliation with the school or its football program.
Roy Johnson, who called himself the face, spokesman and leader of COF Academy, previously told ThisWeek that he is the business-development director for the Richard Allen Group, the financial arm of the AME Church, a nationwide organization with millions of members. He said the church was bankrolling the school, and claimed that he was acting on behalf of one of the church’s chapters.
In a statement on its website, however, the Third Episcopal District of the AME Church denies “any affiliation” with COF Academy or the Richard Allen Group, and accuses COF Academy of “seeking donations” and contacting people about “life insurance” under the AME Church’s name.
Johnson has not responded to phone calls or messages since August.
In addition, head coach Paul Williams can no longer be reached by his previous phone number, which has been disconnected.
Assistant coach and teacher Ulysses Hall claimed classes were occurring but said he “was not authorized” to answer any questions. When asked further questions, including who was authorized to answer, Hall disconnected the call.
Meanwhile, St. Edward canceled its Sept. 22 game with COF Academy.
Reached by phone, St. Edward athletics director Kevin Hickman declined to address the scheduling of COF Academy or why the game was canceled.
“If a student asked, I’d be happy to answer them,” he said when asked what he would tell students who expected a game.
When asked why he was unable to speak on the topic, Hickman disconnected the call.
Stried said the OHSAA also would make a major exception and allow COF Academy students to transfer back to their original schools midseason without losing eligibility.
ThisWeek has never received an official roster from the school, so it's unclear where all the students came from.
OHSAA bylaws outline rules for transfers and specify that students must change their enrollment and attend the new school in order to be eligible, but several exceptions are referenced.
Stried said the case is so unusual that OHSAA officials determined the bylaws don’t apply.
“Initially, when we thought that they were all in school, if a kid was going to COF and was attending school there and then left and went to another school, they’d be considered a transfer student and they’d have to abide by our transfer bylaw, which means if they didn’t meet an exception they’d have to sit out the second half of the season,” he said.
“But what we now believe is that there has been no classroom or educational component to COF. And if that’s true, that they’ve never started their school, then those students were never attending another school. If they go back to another school, they’re not transfers anymore.”
Stried said he’s been with the OHSAA for 11 years and cannot compare the COF Academy situation to anything else he has seen.
“This is the strangest case that I remember,” he said.
Check ThisWeekNEWS.com for updates to this developing story.