Sequoyah players allowed to play despite eligibility issue
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Saturday, October 27, 2012
10/27/12 at 6:09 AM
Related Story: Brothers spark Sequoyah win
MUSKOGEE - The Tahlequah Sequoyah football team chalked up one victory in Cherokee County District Court on Friday and another on the field.
Whether the Indians' 28-0 win over Hilldale will stand up through a Nov. 7 eligibility hearing by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association remains to be seen.
But the Indians were beaming over a showdown victory that gave them, for now, the District 3A-7 title and the right to host games in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Ryan Helsley caught a pair of touchdown passes and had an interception as the eighth-ranked Indians improved to 8-1 overall and 5-0 in league play while giving the ninth-ranked Hornets (7-2, 4-1) their first shutout loss of the season.
"I was excited because I didn't know if we were going to get to play and I knew it was for a district title," Helsley said.
The school announced on Monday that eight players were guilty of an OSSAA rule governing participation by student athletes in individual summer camps and clinics.
An additional four players were later found in violation of the rule, which prohibits a student-athlete from participating in camps that are paid for by the school, school personnel or booster groups associated with the school.
All 12 thought they would be ineligible - until Special Judge Doug Kirkley granted their petition for a temporary restraining order that allows them to play at least until a Nov. 7 hearing before the OSSAA's Board of Directors.
"I don't think tough is the word to describe this week. It was way more than tough," said standout senior quarterback Brayden Scott, another of the 12. All attended Friday's hearing in Cherokee Country District Court in Tahlequah.
"We all went down there and sat together. That was a little scary, because I've never been in a courthouse before," Scott said.
When the judge made his ruling, "it was amazing, very amazing," Scott said. "I couldn't stop thinking this whole week, me and the rest of the seniors, thinking that we'd played our last game of football. I'm just glad to be on this field. I want to thank God for giving me this opportunity."
Kirkley said the OSSAA violated the due process rights of the athletes. He said the state association should have notified parents and students of their alleged violations in a letter or phone call to give the families time to respond.
But OSSAA counsel Mark Grossman told the Tulsa World he disagreed with the ruling. He pointed out a rule that authorizes OSSAA executive director Ed Sheakley "to take temporary action pending further investigation ... if deemed necessary to prevent possible coutinuing or repeated violations."
Sheakley said it wasn't fair to other schools competing for District 3A-7 playoff berths for Sequoyah to continue using ineligible players.
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, saying 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."
No action was taken on suspended head coach Brent Scott, who watched Friday from outside the playing area. On Wednesday, the school appointed defensive coordinator Shane Richardson as the team's acting head coach.
Original Print Headline: It's a win-win for Sequoyah
Mike Brown 918-581-8390