BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P.J., PRATHER AND ANDERSON, JJ.
PRATHER, J., JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
In an injunctive action by members of the Hattiesburg High School baseball team and their parents, the Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc. was permanently enjoined in the Chancery Court of Forrest County from placing Hattiesburg High School on one year probation after the Hattiesburg High School baseball team was required to forfeit a ballgame in the 1984 South AA Baseball Tournament.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc., along with umpires Robert Phillips and Turner Jones perfect this appeal. We reverse.
On May 15, 1984, Hattiesburg High School played Wingfield High School of Jackson in the South AA Baseball Tournament in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Both high schools were members of the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA), a non-profit association organized to regulate interscholastic activities of member schools.
In the fifth inning of the game between Hattiesburg and Wingfield, after a 3-3 tie changed to a 10-3 Wingfield lead, Hattiesburg Coach Jim Pierce became involved in a verbal altercation with home plate umpire Robert Phillips. Coach Pierce was ejected from the game and allegedly refused to leave the field. As a result, Umpire Phillips declared the game a forfeit in favor of Wingfield.
Hattiesburg High School continued to play in the tournament, however, and became eligible as the runner-up to advance to the State AA Baseball Tournament in Clinton, Mississippi.
On May 16, 1984, Turner Jones, the third base umpire during the Hattiesburg/Wingfield game, made a telephone report of the incident involving Coach Pierce to Dr. Woodrow L. Marsh, Executive Director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association. The telephone report was followed by a written report from Robert Phillips.
Dr. Marsh's investigation of the incident consisted of talking by telephone to various witnesses. Dr. Marsh spoke with Coach Pierce, but did not talk with any of the Hattiesburg players.
Before deciding on a penalty, Dr. Marsh did not conduct a hearing or allow representatives of Hattiesburg High School to show cause why penalties should not be inflicted. Instead, Dr. Marsh, on May 17, 1984, mailed a "Notice of Penalty" to the principals of all associated high schools inflicting severe penalties on Hattiesburg High School. According to the "Notice of Penalty," Hattiesburg High School was required to forfeit a baseball game against McComb High School which was played after the Wingfield game. Furthermore, Hattiesburg High School was put on strict probation from May 15, 1984 until April 15, 1985. The penalty would have prevented Hattiesburg High School from competing in the State AA Baseball Tournament in Clinton.
Also on May 17, 1984, the plaintiffs/appellees filed
their complaint in the Chancery Court of Forrest County to restrain MHSAA from placing Hattiesburg High School on probation, from removing the Hattiesburg High School Baseball team from the South AA Baseball Tournament, and from other actions detrimental to the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claimed that without a temporary restraining order they would suffer irreparable injury by not being allowed to display their baseball skills in pursuit of college baseball scholarships. A temporary restraining order granting plaintiffs relief was ordered the same day.
On May 23, 1984, the plaintiffs/appellees filed their amended complaint asking the Chancery Court of Forrest County to permanently enjoin MHSAA from putting Hattiesburg High School on probation and from removing Hattiesburg High School from the South AA Baseball Tournament. The amended complaint also asked for attorneys' fees.
The MHSAA publishes annually a handbook which sets out its constitution, by-laws, and other general information concerning the organization. In Part II, Article III, Section B2 the procedure for inflicting penalties is described as follows:
No penalty shall be inflicted upon any school by the Director of Activities, or by the Executive Committee, nor shall any appeal be considered by the Executive Committee without notice to the offending school to appear before the Director of Activities or the Executive Committee, as the case may be, and show cause why a penalty should not be inflicted or why the ruling of the Director of Activities should not be affirmed. Any school appearing in response to such notice given a full hearing, and no penalty shall be inflicted, or ruling of the Director of Activities affirmed, except upon substantial evidence that a violation or attempt showing an intent to violate the rules of the association has occurred. (Emphasis added).
Despite the language of the rules, Dr. Marsh testified the normal procedure was to conduct no hearing unless requested by the accused school.
After hearing the testimony and examining the evidence, the chancellor held:
(1) A contract existed between Hattiesburg High School and the MHSAA and the minor ...