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B.A. v. Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

October 18, 2013

B.A., et al., PLAINTIFF
v.
MISSISSIPPI HIGH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., DEFENDANTS

Page 858

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 859

For B.A., by and through his parent and next friend, Deanna Alford, R.M., by and through his parent and next friend, David Ray Moore, M.S., by and through his parent and next friend, Barry Sullivan, A.R., by and through his parent and next friend, Matt Ross, B.M., by and through his parent and next friend, Andrew Mackin, D.L., by and through his parent and next friend, Rogelio Luck, C.K., by and through his parent and next friend, Rachel Kingery, L.J., by and through his parent and next friend, Joel Dell Josey, C.G., by and through his parent and next friend, Steve Gwaltney, M.G., by and through his parent and next friend Randall Godley, C.D., by and through his parent and next friend James Dunne, D.B., by and through his parent and next friend Daphne Bush, A.B., by and through his parent and next friend Abdolsamal Borazjani, V.L., by and through his parent and next friend Gregory Lawson, B.H., by and through his parent and next friend Eric Hampton, T.S., by and through his parent and next friend Jeff Scoville, Plaintiffs: Joseph Andrew Hughes, Mark Nolan Halbert, LEAD ATTORNEYS, J. ANDREW HUGHES, P.A., Tupelo, MS.

For Mississippi High School Activities Association, Inc., Defendant: Benjamin B. Morgan, LEAD ATTORNEY, ADAMS AND REESE LLP - Ridgeland, Ridgeland, MS; John Jeffrey Trotter, LEAD ATTORNEY, ADAMS AND REESE, Ridgeland, MS; Richard Jarrad Garner, LEAD ATTORNEY, ADAMS AND REESE LLP, Ridgeland, MS.

For Tupelo Public School District, Jon Schoggin, individually and as Athletic Director for Tupelo High School, Jason Harris, individually and as Principal of Tupelo High School, Defendants: Benjamin E. Griffith, LEAD ATTORNEY, Michael S. Carr, GRIFFITH & GRIFFITH, Cleveland, MS.

OPINION

Page 860

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Sharion Aycock, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the Lee County Chancery Court seeking to enjoin the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) from enforcing an association rule prohibiting student athletes from competing on both a school and non-school (independent) team in the same sport during the academic year. Defendants' filed a Motion to Dismiss, or Alternatively, Motion for Summary Judgment [15]. A hearing was held on this matter and the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' request for an injunction, GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, and DISMISSES this case.

Factual and Procedural History

Prior to the 2013-2014 school year, the MHSAA included in its Handbook a rule which limited the number of players for a high school sport who could also play on the same independent team. Specifically, the pre-2013 rule stated as follows:

During the school's sports seasons an independent team can be made up of no more than 50% of the number that make up the starting number of players for that sport from any one school. The penalty for this violation is the loss of eligibility of all participants from the school that participated on the team. School personnel cannot coach an independent team during the school year. NOTE: Only 4 players per school may participate on a baseball or fast pitch softball team, 2 basketball players, 5 soccer or slow pitch players, etc. Exception: five starters in soccer must be identified by the coach. Independent teams may participate in summer league post-season play through August.

The exception for soccer applied the 50% Rule to only the number of starters as opposed to players. According to Plaintiffs, for the sport of soccer, this allowed high school soccer players who attended the same school to also play on the same independent team provided no more than five starters, as designated by the high school coach, were on the same independent team. The soccer exception to the 50% Rule was adopted in 2006 and was continuously applied through the 2012-2013 school year.

On November 1, 2012, a revised 50% Rule was voted on by the forty-one member MHSAA Legislative Council. The measure removed the soccer exception from the prior 50% Rule and interpreted that rule to apply to, essentially, the entire school year. The new rule, 6.2.1, passed unanimously and was published on the MHSAA's members-only website. The Legislative Council and fifteen-member Executive Board convened on February 7, 2013, for the final unanimous vote adopting Rule 6.2.1.

In addition to the new 50% Rule, the MHSAA also defined the term " sports season" as " that period beginning with the opening date of practice as called by each coach within the official starting dates and extending through the school team's last game of the ...


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