« Not law but interesting - Australian newspaper allegedly hacks into secret government site | Main | Ind. Law - Twenty-three bills were signed by the governor yesterday »

Thursday, March 18, 2010

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

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in the case of Indiana High School Athletic Association v. Jasmine S. Watson (for background start with this ILB entry from March 3, 2010). Charles Wilson of the AP has this long story. Some quotes:

Single mother Valerie Watson moved her family from Elkhart to South Bend following a foreclosure on the family's home, but the Indiana High School Athletic Association said the real reason was so her daughter could play for a basketball powerhouse.

Now, the state Supreme Court will decide whether the association acted unfairly in ruling Jasmine Watson ineligible to play her senior year when she transferred from Elkhart Memorial to then-nationally ranked South Bend Washington, or if lower courts overstepped their boundaries when they overruled the athletic group. * * *

The justices bombarded both sides with questions during a hearing Wednesday, asking why the IHSAA didn't lend more weight to the family's economic situation, why it focused on the player rather than possible improper recruitment by both schools, and whether the dispute even belonged in court. Watson now plays at the University of Massachusetts and is no longer involved in the case. * * *

[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.

IHSAA Commissioner Blake Ress said the appeal mainly was sought because the lower courts discounted much of the testimony at the 2008 administrative hearing on Watson's case as hearsay. Ress said the IHSAA has no subpoena power and must depend on hearsay evidence to make its decisions.

To overturn an IHSAA decision, a court must find that the organization acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” under previous Supreme Court rulings.

For an update on Ms. Watson herself, here is a March 17th story from MassLive headed "Case of UMass basketball player Jasmine Watson scrutinized by Indiana court":
Freshman Jasmine Watson, the second-leading scorer and top rebounder on the University of Massachusetts women’s basketball team this season, is the subject of controversy in Indiana high school sports circles.

In August 2008, the Indiana High School Athletic Association ruled that Watson was ineligible to play after she transferred from Elkhart Memorial School to South Bend Washington because it said she had switched primarily for athletic reasons. She changed schools after a foreclosure on the family’s home.

A special judge and the state appeals court disagreed, and allowed her to play, but Watson missed half the season. The state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Wednesday, and will decide if the IHSAA acted unfairly.

A UMass spokesperson said Wednesday that Watson flew under the recruiting radar by not having played for half of the season, which is why the Minutewomen were able to sign her. Watson averaged 10.2 points and 5.9 rebounds for UMass.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 18, 2010 08:12 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions