LUNENBURG (CBS) — A youth football league is coming under fire in Central Massachusetts for telling a 12-year-old he can’t play with his team mid-season.
Five years ago, Michael Nowd of Lunenburg skipped a grade in school because he was excelling academically but he continued to play with kids his age. An anonymous complaint to the Central Mass Youth Football and Cheerleading Conference brought the discrepancy to light. Conference officials said they have no choice but to ask Nowd to transfer to an older team.
“I feel like they’re discriminating against a kid for being smart,” said Nowd’s mother, Dianne.
The running back and team captain wants to finish his season with the Bengals, and the kids he’s played with for seven years.
“Football is kind of my life,” Nowd said. “This is my favorite sport and I love coming here.”
Nowd isn’t any bigger than the rest of his teammates in a grade below him. He’s even younger than half of them. And if Nowd had been held back a grade, instead of advanced, he would be eligible to play with the team.
A league spokesperson told WBZ-TV national rules dictate kids must play with the team for their grade level.
The ruling has sparked an online frenzy among Nowd’s longtime teammates. They threatened to forfeit their Saturday game against Maynard if Nowd was kept off the field.
“All of us were saying, ‘If he can’t play, we don’t want to play,” said quarterback Donovan Powell, 12.
“We definitely wanted to prove a point and fight it out by saying, ‘Hey, we’re not losing Michael!'” added team mom Debra Hall.
Despite the support from his team and coaches, Nowd encouraged his Bengals to play.
“He said, ‘It’s not about me. It’s about the team,’ and that’s the type of kid he is,” head coach Steve Powell said.
Lunenburg beat Maynard, 25-7, but they’re hoping to have Nowd back on the field before the next game.
Although officials of the Central Mass league say their hands are tied, the Bengals are hoping the national America Youth Football league will intervene.
“(We would like) a waiver, and then in the off season get something on the books that addresses academically excelling students, not just students that are retained,” Dianne Nowd said.
“AYF is a great program and I have a lot of respect for it, but they’re missing the boat,” Powell said. “He’s a great teammate, he’s a hard worker, he’s a phenomenal player, and he’s obviously brilliant.”