Regina Thoma said McDaniel was given the 365-day suspension without the FHSAA conducting an investigation that involved talking to them, McDaniel or his family.“We were really shocked,” Todd Thoma said about Irvin’s letter. “But actually also happy, because it verified what we thought was going on. That there was something wrong.”

Last week, McDaniel sat out the Pirates’ 31-28 victory over Palmetto. On Thursday, McDaniel and other Braden River representatives — principal Sharon Scarbrough and Bradenton lawyers Peter Mackey and T.R. Smith — were in Gainesville for a mediation hearing.

Tomyn and the FHSAA’s lawyers sat in a separate room for the mediation hearing, an FHSAA spokesperson said. A judge went between the two parties before mutually agreeing to let McDaniel play the final six regular-season games, starting with next week’s Class 7A-District 11 showdown at Venice, but no playoffs.

“At the end, they gave me two options,” McDaniel told Bold TV via a Skype interview Friday afternoon. “They said I could either switch to the school I’m zoned for, or I could just play the regular season with no playoffs.”

McDaniel’s residence switched to Southeast High’s zone in January 2018. At the Sept. 6 section appeals hearing, Manatee County superintendent Cynthia Saunders explained a hardship waiver is automatically granted to students moving zones to remain at their previous school as part of district policy.

Hours later, Irvin wrote his letter asking Tomyn and the FHSAA to rethink its stance.

The lawyers for McDaniel also stated they do not want to back out of their agreement, but are asking Tomyn to amend it to fully reinstate McDaniel without restriction.

“Their own staff is disagreeing and saying that they were conducting a damning investigation,” Mackey said. “They basically were making Knowledge McDaniel the scapegoat for what Braden River coaches and staff have gotten this young kid into. They’re punishing the kid.”

McDaniel’s case picked up national steam after ESPN personality and Lakewood Ranch resident Dick Vitale heard what was happening.

Vitale used social media to fan the flames toward the FHSAA for how McDaniel’s appeals hearing and Thursday’s mediation hearing turned out.

National media members such as ESPN’s NFL reporter Adam Schefter, ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi, ESPN’s Josina Anderson and others have shared Vitale’s tweets.

“This kid’s been treated so unfairly, it’s unbelievable,” Vitale said.

Vitale said he first met McDaniel when the Braden River senior started working at the Broken Egg restaurant Vitale frequents.

“He’d been there for weeks and I didn’t know he was a football player,” Vitale said.

One of the Broken Egg managers relayed what was happening with McDaniel to Vitale.

“He’s getting a raw deal,” Vitale said. “He’s coming from a tough, tough situation. I’ve been in sports all my life coaching high school, college and pros. We’re supposed to be in the business to help kids, not hurt them. …

“What did he do? He didn’t go from Manatee to Braden River, if you want to talk about recruiting. He’s been there the (entire) time at Braden River, all four years. To me, that’s not recruiting. He was just looking for a place to have food, to have a roof over his head, to be able to study. I don’t understand the logic of those people. Anybody that has a heart would be like, ‘Wow, what a story.’ ”