Tahlequah Sequoyah athletes cleared to play in key football game
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Friday, October 26, 2012
10/26/12 at 5:27 PM
A special district judge cleared the way for suspended Tahlequah Sequoyah athletes to play in Friday’s key district football game at Hilldale.
In granting a temporary restraining order, Special District Judge Doug Kirkley said the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association violated the due process rights of the athletes in question.
Standout quarterback Brayden Scott and receiver Niko Hammer were among eight athletes initially found in violation of an OSSAA rule governing participation in summer camps and clinics by student-athletes.
Another four players have since been found in violation, according to Todd Hembree, attorney general of the Cherokee Nation, which oversees Sequoyah High school.
All 12 are eligible for Friday’s game under a ruling issued Friday in Cherokee County District Court.
No action was brought on behalf of suspended head coach Brent Scott, who was to remain sidelined for Friday’s game. On Wednesday, the school appointed defensive coordinator Shane Richardson as acting head coach. Contacted during a Friday walk-through with his team, Richardson declined comment on the ruling.
In a hearing that lasted more than an hour, Kirkley said the OSSAA should have notified parents of the alleged violations in a letter or phone call to give families time to respond, according to a Cherokee Nation release.
“You didn’t follow your own rules,” Kirkley told an attorney for the association, which governs high school athletics in the state.
“We disagree with the judge’s ruling,” OSSAA counsel Mark Grossman told the Tulsa World. He pointed to a stipulation that authorizes OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley “to take temporary action pending further investigation … if deemed necessary to prevent possible continuing or repeated violations.”
Sheakley said it wasn’t fair to other schools competing for District 3A-7 playoff berths if Sequoyah continues to use ineligible players.
At question is an OSSAA rule that prohibits a student-athlete’s participation in an individual summer camp or clinic not paid for the by the student-athletes or his or her family.
The violations came to light after Sequoyah responded to an OSSAA request for records pertaining to summer camp participation in all of the school’s athletic programs. Sheakley said the investigation is ongoing.
Sequoyah officials argued that the violations occurred under previous school administrations and that the athletes in question should not be forced to pay for others’ mistakes.
“This is their only senior year and their only senior football season,” said Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. “We may play (Friday’s) game and get it taken away from us later, but we feel it would be a travesty for these players to miss this game and later have their eligibility reinstated.”
A hearing of reinstatement is scheduled for the OSSAA’s Board of Directors on Nov. 7.
Sequoyah and Hilldale are 7-1 overall and 4-0 in district play. Friday’s game was to decide the District 3A-7 title and the right to host games in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Sequoyah closes the regular season hosting Lincoln Christian on Nov. 2.
Sheakley said the OSSAA hopes to “continue to move forward, try to complete an investigation into this matter and make a decision on these students.”