CHELAN — At the start of the Chelan football team’s Thursday practice at Sargent Field, Goats head coach Darren Talley sought out Michael Amsel, Jr. and gave the senior a big hug. It was obviously an emotional moment for both of them. Earlier in the day, both men found out that Amsel’s long quest to gain athletic eligibility had ended.
The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has granted Amsel a waiver of its residence/transfer rule, thus giving the star athlete immediate eligibility for varsity-level participation in all interscholastic activities at Chelan for this school year, Chelan School District superintendent Rob Manahan said Thursday.
Amsel, who has been practicing with the Goats for the last month, will start at quarterback for the Goats in their game tonight at Omak, coach Darren Talley said.
“It’s a great day,” Talley said. “When I heard (that Amsel had been cleared), my first thought was ‘Thank you.’ Everybody (here) loves him. I love him. I’m tired of people who don’t know the facts judging him. It’s time to let the kid play.”
An eligibility hearing on Amsel’s behalf was held at the WIAA offices in Renton on Wednesday. Amsel, who moved back to Chelan from California over the summer, has been a student at Chelan High, but was unable to play for the Goats’ football team because of his issues related to his transfer.
Last month, Amsel was cleared to participate by the Chelan school board, as long as he gained approval from the WIAA. On Sept. 26, though, Amsel’s appeal was denied by the North Central Washington Activities Association District 6 eligibility committee. Amsel’s last chance to gain eligibility at that point was to appeal directly to the WIAA.
Amsel appealed his case Wednesday to a hearing officer; that officer then made a formal recommendation to WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese, who made the final decision.
Colbrese declined to discuss specific details of Amsel’s appeal.
“This went through the whole process,” Colbrese said. “I can’t take the same information that the family gave the District 6 committee and make a different decision; they have to give me additional information in order for me to do that. In this case, there was compelling information to indicate that (Amsel) was in a hardship situation.”
Amsel, who was an all-Caribou Trail League basketball player as as sophomore, led the Chelan football team to two 1A state semifinal appearances in the past three years. The Goats are 0-4 in Caribou Trail League play this season and have three regular-season contests remaining.
“I smile when I think that he’s going to play again,” Talley said. “I wish it had happened three or four weeks ago, but we had to move on. Kids aren’t perfect. Most of us grow up with life handed to us. Michael hasn’t. He’s had to work real hard to make his life as normal as possible. This is a never-ending story that’s going to go on. He’s a fighter.”