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Monday, March 22, 2010

Ind. Decisions - More on "Supreme Court steps into player eligibility dispute"

Updating this ILB entry from March 18, 2010, Columnist Hillary Smith of the NWI Times has a column today headed "Supreme Court could decide right to fight IHSAA ."

First, a quote from Charles Wilson's story in the earlier entry:

[T]he IHSAA believes both a special judge and the state Court of Appeals exceeded the limits the top court has imposed on legal review of the athletic group, which is a private agency. Under those guidelines, judges are supposed to review the official record for blatant error, not reweigh all the evidence, [IHSAA attorney Robert M. Baker III] said.
Now from Ms. Smith's column today:
On Wednesday in Indianapolis, the Supreme Court attacked both sides of the IHSAA vs. Jasmine Watson eligibility dispute.

Yes, this legality is ongoing, even as Watson -- the player the IHSAA deemed an illegal transfer last season before a special judge and an appellate court both reversed the decision -- is now on the roster at the University of Massachusetts.

What's interesting is that this particular case is the one the IHSAA deemed most appropriate to take to the Indiana Supreme Court.

According to the IHSAA's own lawyer, the association used to have about one case per year challenged by a player or school and taken to court. There have been five in the last two years.

But this one is the one they've decided to make an example of.

In this instance, Watson transferred from Elkhart Memorial to South Bend Washington, explaining that her mother had lost hours at her job and their house in Elkhart had been foreclosed on. The IHSAA determined Watson had been recruited away from Elkhart Memorial and took away her senior season.

While it might just seem like another chance for the IHSAA to prove a point by continuing to fight long after the player is out of association jurisdiction, this case is more than that.

If the Indiana Supreme Court finds in favor of the association -- in this case with the IHSAA's assumption that judges should be ruling only on the record for error, not retrying the case -- this could set a precedence for keeping such cases out of the court system.

A good idea you might say? The catch is, in some cases, the IHSAA is blatantly wrong and the rules set up to appeal decisions weigh more heavily in favor of the association that made the decision in the first place.

A secondary look at the case is sometimes what is called for.

But if the Indiana Supreme Court decides to figure the IHSAA is right, it sets the tone that suing the IHSAA is no longer an option. Based on this same Watson case a year ago, a South Bend legislator drew up a bill to move the IHSAA under the purview of the Board of Education, though it was eventually withdrawn.

The argument then was that the IHSAA had grown to a dictatorship.

Should the Indiana Supreme Court find the same, the bill likely would be reintroduced and even more change is on the way.

After the oral arguments last week, Justice Theodore Boehm said: "From our point of view, the question is whether the courts should be involved in this exercise at all."

When the alternative isn't much justice at all, the courts should most definitely be involved, and he should help keep it that way.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 22, 2010 10:42 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions