Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

October 26, 2012

Judge grants temporary eligibility for Sequoyah players

A court hearing Friday morning will give the OSSAA a chance to argue its case for declaring eight Sequoyah students ineligible.

A district judge on Thursday signed a restraining order that temporarily overrules this week’s decision by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association to declare eight Sequoyah football players ineligible.

Special District Judge Douglas Kirkley signed the order Thursday afternoon and set a show-cause hearing for 10 a.m. Friday at the Cherokee County Courthouse. His ruling came after attorneys representing three of the ineligible players filed petitions seeking temporary restraining orders against the OSSAA’s ruling.

Kirkley said the show-cause hearing Friday morning will give the OSSAA a chance to present its case, and he will then issue another decision.

“[The OSSAA] wasn’t heard [Thursday], and they have a right to be heard,” Kirkley told the Press Thursday afternoon.

Kirkley said he’ll hear from all parties involved on Friday and make another ruling as to the students’ eligibility “as quickly as possible,” in accordance with requirements of the law.

The OSSAA this week ruled eight Sequoyah players and head coach Brent Scott ineligible for violations of the association’s rules. According to court documents, the allegations indicate Sequoyah Schools paid camp tuition for the players, an apparent violation of the OSSAA’s rules.

On Wednesday, Sequoyah senior Tanner Sheets and his mother, Tera Meadors, filed a petition in Cherokee County, asking for a temporary restraining order against the OSSAA. On Thursday, Sequoyah senior Dakota Karter Woodruff and his mother, Amy Woodruff, asked for a similar order. Sheets and Woodruff are both represented by attorney Deanna Wales.

A third order was filed Thursday by attorneys Tim K. Baker and Maci Jessie on behalf of Sequoyah senior Niko Hammer. That filing asked for a judge to grant a temporary restraining order not only for Hammer, but also for all other players previously deemed ineligible by the OSSAA – including those who had not sought their own attorneys.

Kirkley’s decision was put into effect “immediately,” indicating in court documents that “irreparable harm” could otherwise occur.

Kirkley’s ruling names four of the five other Sequoyah football players — Robert Smith, Braden Scott, Greydon Elrod and Trenton Herron — but identifies the fifth only by the initials C.G.

Attorneys for Sheets, Woodruff and Hammer argue the OSSAA has provided no results of any investigation nor any basis for the determination of ineligibility. The petitions state the OSSAA’s actions are “collusive, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious,” and the association’s rules are “unreasonable” and are perhaps not being enforced uniformly.

Students’ ineligibility to play football will cause them to lose the opportunity for college football scholarships and affect their ability to obtain a college education, the court documents say.

The plaintiffs also argue OSSAA officials violated the due-process clause set out in the association’s own constitution and did not conduct an impartial investigation.

An administrative appeal is set for early November in front of OSSAA officials, but that hearing would be after the last two games of the players’ football season. Sequoyah is slated to play at Hilldale Friday at 7:30 p.m. with the winner claiming the District 3A-7 championship.

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