An afternoon that started with optimism ended in disappointment when a Louisiana High School Athletic Association hardship committee denied Capitol High’s request to restore eligibility for nine football players.

The Capitol appeal concluded Wednesday’s day-long hardship process that included more than 20 cases.

About 40 people, including school officials, community leaders, players involved and parents, attended the meeting held at the LHSAA office.

After listening to school officials and other spokespersons, the hardship committee made up of five members of the LHSAA’s executive committee voted 4-1 to deny the appeal.

“It’s very disappointing,” Metro Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said. “I think this committee has failed Capitol High School.

“It was no fault of the students that they were uprooted from the school. It was like the school was closing and they (students-athletes) had to find refuge. They should have been allowed to return and play.”

Capitol based its appeal on the fact the student-athletes transferred from the school last spring as rumors swirled about its future.

The student transfers were a key part of the appeal for both sides. LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson told those on hand the players are ineligible at Capitol because they opted to transfer in the spring, breaking their chain of attendance at the Class 2A school.

“That’s the reason we’re here,” Henderson said. “If the chain of attendance not been broken, they (Capitol players) would be eligible.”

After the appeal was completed, Henderson noted that all nine players are eligible if they opt to return to East Baton Rouge Parish System schools in their home attendance zones.

Capitol Principal Onetha Albert, Marcelle, State Representative Michael L. Jackson and Capitol’s athletic director, Alvin Stewart, were among the speakers during the 45-minute appeal.

Albert detailed the school’s issues dating to last year. After months of speculation, the group operating Capitol as part of the State Recovery School District, 100 Black Men, opted to return its charter to the state.

Talks of a possible merger with Career Academy followed before the state decided to re-open the school. Albert was hired in mid-July and added staff. Only Stewart remains from the 2010-11 faculty and staff.

“I’m disappointed,” Albert said. “My thought process was communicating the facts. The uncertainty of the school was the thing these parents and their children based their decisions on.

“Everything was in question, from not knowing who was going to operate the school. to whether it would be open. The negative publicity the school got also was a factor.”

Albert and other speakers also said players were told they needed to transfer by April 1 to gain eligibility for 2011-12. None of the speakers identified who told the students about a deadline to transfer. Henderson noted there is no such deadline in the LHSAA bylaws.

Hackberry’s Carl Langley was the lone committee member who voted in favor of granting eligibility. Kenneth Gipson, of Gibsland-Coleman, Church Point’s Lee Bellard, Kinder’s Kent Reed and David Federico, of Ecole Classique, voted no.

“It’s unfortunate that the kids are affected,” LHSAA vice president William E. Duplechain, who oversaw the meeting, said. “I think the decision was proper. There are the rules we have in place.”

Henderson added, “It’s unfortunate. The parents got some bad advice from someone.”

Two schools sanctioned

In matters not related to the hardship committee, the LHSAA announced that two schools, Chalmette and West St. Mary, were fined $500 and placed on administrative probation for illegally videotaping football contests.

Schools are prohibited from videotaping contests of other schools without express written consent to do so.