By BEN JOHNSON
Two months after she was ruled ineligible by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, Kelsey Leach is again eligible at Sequoyah, according to her mother, Kay Leach.
A press release from Sequoyah Schools confirmed the news late Thursday afternoon.
“We’re just ecstatic the OSSAA cleared Kelsey to play, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” said Marcus Crittenden, athletic director at Sequoyah. “To have this issue cleared up to show she was not in violation is a welcome turn of events during what’s been an extremely difficult period for Kelsey and her family.”
Leach, a junior, will now be allowed to participate in basketball and slowpitch softball this year.
“Glad it’s over,” Kay Leach told the Tahlequah Daily Press via text message on Thursday.
According to the press release from Sequoyah, the now-reversed ruling came on the basis that Kelsey Leach had transferred to Sequoyah and not sat out one year or applied for a hardship waiver in order to play varsity games as a freshman. However, since then, the Leach family had filed proof of residence with the OSSAA, proving their home is in a dependent school district in Adair County. With the proof, a waiver for eligibility was not required.
Because Kelsey Leach was denied a retroactive hardship by the OSSAA at its monthly meeting on Sept. 5, Sequoyah was stripped of its Class 5A slowpitch softball championship that it won in the spring of this year.
The OSSAA, though, has not decided if it will restore Sequoyah’s softball title.
At the OSSAA’s board of directors meeting this week, it was determined that Sequoyah must perform an audit of all of its student athletes and their eligibility. If all the Sequoyah athletes meet the qualifications for eligibility, the OSSAA could return the vacated softball championship, as well as basketball victories that were taken away two months ago.
Amanda Clinton, director of communications at Cherokee Nation, said: “We will wait until the audit is complete to determine a course of action regarding the reinstatement of championships.”
Scott denied permanent injunction
Sequoyah quarterback Brayden Scott is running out of avenues that lead to eligibility.
The Memphis commit was denied a permanent injunction Thursday by District Judge Darrell Shepherd. Scott, represented by attorney Chad Smith, was attempting to overturn an Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association rule, which prohibits schools from providing payments for individual summer camp fees.
"It looks like it's time for a 'Hail Mary' pass," Smith said.
According to a report in the Tulsa World on Thursday afternoon, Scott's next move now will be in Oklahoma Supreme Court. Smith filed a writ of mandamus seeking to overrule Shepherd's judgment, and a hearing is set with a court referee in Oklahoma City at 10 a.m. on Friday. It will be up to the referee to recommend to the high court whether it should take action or hear any additional arguments.
Scott's quest for eligibility comes after the OSSAA board of directors reinstated the eligibility of 11 Sequoyah athletes (all on the football team) that were found in violation of the same summer came rule. However, Scott was the lone Sequoyah player without eligibility having been restored.
In addition to have athletes ruled ineligible, Sequoyah has also been forced to forfeit its nine victories this season. The Indians will also not be allowed to compete in the Class 3A playoffs.
In the Cherokee County Courthouse on Thursday morning, Smith stated that the OSSAA's summer camp rule doesn't apply to Sequoyah, "because it does not specifically prohibit governments from paying camp fees." Smith pointed out that Sequoyah is a program of the U.S. federal government and Bureau of Indian Education.
Shepherd responded by saying that the intent of the rule is to prevent one school from picking up an advantage over another.
Later, Shepherd said: "In general, (the courts) need to stay out of the OSSAA's business. There are some exceptions, but that is the general rule. The bottom line is that in the rules area, I must defer to the decision of the board of directors."