ST. LOUIS (Gray News) - Cardinal Ritter College Prep had won all seven football games it played this season, but you won’t find a single one of them in the record books.
Right now, you won’t find any coaches still on its staff. And you won’t find “Marvin Burks,” the freshman at the center of a scandal that cost the Lions its 2019 season.
That’s because despite playing in the Lions’ season-opener against Chicago’s Nazareth Academy, Burks doesn’t exist. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, junior running back Bill Jackson, who normally wears No. 4, donned No. 24 that game.
The roster listed Burks as No. 24.
To make matters worse, Jackson was supposed to be suspended for the opener. He had gotten ejected during the 2018 Class 3A state championship game.
By rule, a player that has been ejected is ineligible to play in the next game, even if it takes place the following season. Instead, Jackson sat out the team’s fall jamboree game, which doesn’t count.
While disguised as Burks, Jackson rushed for 109 yards and scored on a 56-yard run.
The following week, Jackson was back in his traditional No. 4 and still giving defenders fits. He ran for 147 yards against Lutheran North.
“Watching last week, it wasn’t fun at all. It gave me a spark,” Jackson said, reinforcing the narrative that he served his suspension in Week 1.
Head coach Brandon Gregory even told local media that Burks was someone the team had added last-minute who had earned the right to start and that “it was his time to play ball.”
They might have gotten away with the whole thing if not for identifiable tattoos on Jackson’s right arm. But even if that hadn’t unraveled the whole scheme, the videos posted to Gregory’s Instagram account could have been another red flag.
One video shows No. 24 leading the Lions through their pregame ritual before their game against Nazareth. A second one shows No. 4 leading that exact same routine the next week against Lutheran North.
The school self-reported the use of an ineligible player last week. The Missouri State High School Activities Association accepted the school’s self-imposed sanctions, which involved forfeiting all of this season’s games, terminating the entire football staff and canceling the rest of the season.
Longtime athletics director Preston Thomas also decided to retire.
Gregory came to Cardinal Ritter in 2016 and led the Lions to a 28-8 record over the last three seasons. They finished as the state runner-up last season.
According to a report by CBS Sports, Gregory seemed to own up to the scandal.
“That’s kind of my wrongdoing of not knowing the rules and that he shouldn’t have not sat out the jamboree, he should have sat out Week 1, so that’s what happened,” Gregory said.
Even so, his reasoning for why Jackson changed jersey numbers seemed to downplay any wrongdoing.
“That’s a thing our kids do on the regular basis, you know? They try to change jersey numbers and sometimes don’t let us know,” Gregory claimed.
There has been no explanation on why a non-existant freshman was on the roster.