C..J. Jones was set to play for San Joaquin Memorial this season.
That never happened, as the Central Section office ruled Aug. 31 that he cannot play for the Panthers under state bylaw 510. Instead, he made his season debut this week for Sunnyside.
The bylaw states “(Undue Influence – Recruiting) prohibits any person or persons to secure, retain or influence what high school a student attends. In both cases, there are severe penalties for both the student-athlete and the school. The student-athlete penalty could include ineligibility for up to 24 months. Please report unethical behavior immediately to your school principal to help protect your student-athlete’s eligibility.Unethical behavior, recruiting and cheating hurts everyone.”
The Bee reached out to the Central Section office to get an explanation, but it declined comment while citing privacy laws.
Jones had played his first two seasons at Sunnyside. He was back with the Wildcats after the section ruled him fully eligible on Thursday.
He scored two touchdowns — including on the opening drive — in a 23-22 win over Kerman on Friday night at Sunnyside Stadium.
Jones recently posted on social media that he wanted to play after he sat out the Panthers’ games against Clovis North and Central during the investigation.
Just wanna ball!!
— C.J. Jones (@cjjones_1) August 20, 2023
“I post that because I need the ball,” Jones said after Friday’s game. “I got that chance today and I just took advantage of it and I just went on and did what I did.”
Without knowing what the CIF was going to rule, he admitted that it was “stressful a little bit” just waiting for an outcome.
“I didn’t really know anything about that,” Jones said. “All I can do about that is just let it play out and I’m back where I’m at.”
Memorial coach Anthony Goston said he lost some players to transfer and called the ruling “unjust.”
“Based on what I know the facts to be and what I know a lot of the facts to be for a lot of kids that have transferred around the Valley and that are eligible, especially a lot of kids I know that left our place,” he said.
“I know that when you look at all these things side by side, to me it’s very unjust. The CIF basically forced him back to Sunnyside because they really gave him no option. It was either stay at Memorial and don’t play or go back to your old school and you’re eligible immediately. Any 16-, 17-year-old kid that really wants to play, that’s really no choice.”
What prompted the CIF to look into the matter is unknown, but Sunnyside co-head coach Thomas Wilson said, “It’s always been home” for Jones.
“We’re glad to have him back,” Wilson said. “Regardless of everything else, I think we know it and he knows that this is home. The day that he showed up, the look and the smile on his face told us that he felt like he was home. We’re excited for him more than anything else.”
Jones had a chance to sit out the season at Memorial or return to Sunnyside.
He chose the latter.
“My decision,” he said. “I know what I had over here and I know what I had over there. Both programs are great. I got family over here.”