“All I want is justice. Not just for me but for other student-athletes in the future,” said Minnehaha Academy junior Craig McDonald. “It’s unfair.”
The 17-year-old student-athlete was recently ruled ineligible for his senior year of athletics by the Minnesota State High School League because he repeated eighth grade. McDonald and his parents are currently going through an appeals process that concludes Monday, June 3, at 9 am at their offices in Brooklyn Center.
It has been quite a year to remember for McDonald. The 6’3” defensive back led the SMB (St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy, Blake) football team to the Class 4A state championship and the basketball team to a Class 2A state crown as a reserve guard. Now he faces the greatest challenge yet of his young life.
When first informed about the ruling, McDonald admits he didn’t take it seriously. “I really didn’t believe it at first,” he said. “Then it became a reality. At that time I thought my situation would definitely be an exception to the rule.”
According to the Minnesota State High School League bylaws, student-athletes have 12 semesters from seventh to 12th grade, which runs consecutively whether or not they participate in varsity sports.
McDonald’s parents enrolled him in elementary school as a four-year-old. After immediately trying after every school-year to hold him back, only to be denied each time, they finally prevailed. After his final year of middle school, they had him repeat eighth grade at Minnehaha Academy rather than enroll him as a freshman, feeling that he needed another year to mature socially and emotionally.
“My parents were unaware of the rule,” McDonald said with emphasis. “It was all about my social and academic maturity. They wanted what was best for me.”
It appears that his parents made the right decision. McDonald has blossomed into the state’s top football prospect and has more than met the academic challenges, seeming to have his priorities well in order at such a young age.
He turned down offers from Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota, Iowa, Dartmouth and Brown University to attend Iowa State. “They recruited me the hardest,” McDonald said. “They also have one of the top engineering programs in the country.”
Despite the ruling outcome, McDonald’s immediate future appears to be set. He will continue his athletic and academic careers at the collegiate level.
The reality is, however, that he wants what every student-athlete wants. “I want to finish my athletic career with my class,” he said. “I want justice.”
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.