Top-rated quarterback prospect David Cornwell of Norman (Okla.) North and his family ended their silence on Thursday over the eligibility dispute that has jeopardized the remainder of his high school football career.
Cornwell, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound Alabama and Notre Dame target, is set to appear Tuesday before the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association board of directors. Cornwell seeks a resolution to the case that revolves around fall 2011, when his family lived in Florida and he did not attend school or play football as his mother, Debbie, battled a debilitating health condition.
Next fall marks the start of the fifth school year since he began his freshman year in 2009 at Millard South in Omaha, Neb.
Oklahoma eligibility regulations prohibit such an extra period of participation "unless sufficient proof exists that circumstances arose beyond the control of the student and the student's parents" that prevented the student from completing academic work.
"We understand the OSSAA's rules," said Ron Cornwell, David's father. "We've followed those. This situation clearly qualifies. He should be eligible. We're a little confused and hurt."
The Cornwells, with an attorney present during the interview, declined Thursday to answer specifics about Debbie's health condition, other than to say it surfaced in July 2011 and lasted several months. The family told The Oklahoman last October that she suffered from a serious thyroid condition. She is healthy today.
"It was really tough to see the woman who had cared for me my whole life be sick like that," David said. "I had to help her with a lot of stuff. My dad was busy traveling with his job. The emotional toll was tremendous. Me and my dad had a lot of heart-to-heart talks through all that."
Ron Cornwell travels frequently as a corporate health-insurance consultant. His work took the family from Omaha to Jacksonville, Fla., and to Oklahoma in 2012.
David enrolled at Jones (Okla.) High School and blossomed as a QB last fall in his first year at the varsity level. He threw for 2,742 yards and 27 touchdowns while rushing for 755 and six scores in the state's fourth largest of six classifications.
A landslide of recruiting interest followed. He ranks No. 24 overall in the ESPN 150 and first among pocket-passer quarterbacks.
His list of scholarship offers include the Crimson Tide and Irish, who met for the national title last season, as well as Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech and Miami. Cornwell, who will turn 19 in October, earned the first invite to the Elite 11 finals this summer in Portland. He also plans to participate in The Opening and at the Under Armour All-America Game in January.
He previously declined to discuss the eligibility matter, which already has impacted his recruiting.
"Coaches want to see me play," he said. "They've only seen one year. Most of the kids recruited like this have played at least two. I want to play. I want to prove I can go play 6A football."
But according to Ed Sheakley, executive director of the OSSAA, Cornwell already had the opportunity to play four seasons in high school.
"He's asking for an exception for an additional year," Sheakley said Thursday. "They made a choice to leave school (in 2011). They also made a choice not to play football that year. That's kind of where we're at from our point of view."
Ron Cornwell said the family has provided all documentation requested to the OSSAA, including Debbie's medical records.
"I'm very confident in our case, that we've done everything right," David said, "and have all the criteria met."