A judge has come to a decision following a hearing for a lawsuit challenging the South Carolina High School League's decision to disqualify the state's top football team, the Goose Creek High School Gators, for using an ineligible player.
The Berkeley County School District was granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) decision to disqualify the Goose Creek football team from the playoff game tonight against Bluffton.
Goose Creek Principal Jimmy Huskey and Head Coach Chuck Reedy made their way inside the Berkeley County Courthouse in Moncks Corner just before 8:45 a.m. Ninth Circuit Judge Roger Young will be presiding over the hearing.
Berkeley County School District Superintendent Rodney Thompson contends the SCHSL's decision should be overturned because,"First, the punishment of our students does not fit the infraction; second, there was no intent to gain competitive advantage in play; third, there was no intent to deceive; and, fourth, the child in question should qualify for hardship consideration given his special qualifications."
The Joye Law Firm handled the legal considerations of the case at no cost to the district.
Before Goose Creek's disqualification, the Gators were set to face Bluffton in the playoffs Friday, but because of the SCHSL's ruling, Conway is currently set to take on Bluffton.
Goose Creek defeated Conway 48-7 in the playoffs last week.
The attorneys argued the student in question was ordered into a home group by the Department of Juvenile Justice while in ninth grade, therefore not giving him the opportunity to play sports. His eligibility should have begun when he began attending a high school in the 10th grade.
SCHSL's attorney, Bob Warner, argued although Doe was sentenced to home during ninth grade, he still had eligibility whether he used it or not.
The plaintiffs responded, "If the student was sentenced to home, he did not enroll in class. Rules state eligibility starts at enrollment."
Harrell and McCool said Doe is a non-diploma student and is not on course to get a diploma. SCHSL rules, according to the plaintiff, state he should still be eligible to play if he is meeting individual requirements.
Raycom News Network Sports Reporter Kevin Bilodeau (@KevinLive5) was in the courtroom Friday live tweeting the proceeding.
He reports that the lawyer for the South Carolina High School League, Bob Warner, says the school admitted their student was ineligible, they shouldn't argue now that he is.
He continues to say, "Really good teams who use players when they're winning by a lot don't get different rules."
"SCHSL punishment for playing an ineligible player... $300 fine and forfeit the game," tweets Raycom News Network Reporter Mark Davenport.
With the voices of supporters rising in the courtroom, the SCHSL replies, "It's unfortunate that Goose Creek didn't catch it... But unfortunate isn't unfair."
Around 10:40 a.m., Judge Roger Young, Ninth Circuit, said he "understands time is pressing," but needed more time to evaluate the statements made and come to a decision. With court in recess, the judge said he should have reached a decision within an hour.
In the meantime, Goose Creek High players that were present in the courtroom were sent back to school. In the event that they won the case, they must attend two periods of class to be qualified to play in the game.
Judge Young returned to the courtroom, to praying fans and parents, around 12:25 p.m.
He said Goose Creek agreed to join the South Carolina High School League, and in doing so agreed to follow their rules. The issue in this case, the judge states, boils down to whether Goose Creek athlete John Doe was considered enrolled during his year at home.
Since the league met in executive session there is no way to determine what they considered. Judge Young ordered for the two sides to meet on Monday at 5 p.m. to determine the question of ineligibility, but he decided that Goose Creek will play Friday night.
Goose Creek will play Bluffton in the Division 1, AAAA playoff game at 7:30 Friday night at Goose Creek.
Unfortunately for Conway High School's Tigers, that means they will not be heading to Bluffton.
Conway High School student Matthew Medley says he thinks the decision, effectively ousting Conway from the playoffs, is unfair.
"I think it's ridiculous, [Goose Creek] should know they had a player who shouldn't have been able to play," Medley says. "I think [Goose Creek] should just be disqualified."
Conway High School Head Coach Chuck Jordan says, for the most part, his team was disappointed, but not unprepared for the decision.
"They were disappointed they didn't get to play, but the reality is we got beat in the playoffs in the first round," Jordan says. "We didn't feel entitled or anything that we deserved to be there."
Conway Wide Receiver Malcolm Green echoes Jordan's sentiments on the ruling.
"It kind of does [hurt], we put in the hard work on the field," Green says. "But hey, [Goose Creek] deserve what they got."
Not every Conway player was at peace with the team's controversial exit from the playoffs. Junior Defensive lineman Paul Kurber says he is disgusted with the decision.
"I think it's junk because I think our team was ready to go," Kurber says. "[Goose Creek] cheated, and I don't think a cheater should be allowed back in the playoffs."
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