A fine line sometimes separates a winning team from a losing team.
What transpired last week between Capitol High and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association is proof that whether certain events amount to an exceptional situation or a forbidden exception to rules depends on who makes the decisions.
Is this yet another fine line? Well, that depends on who you ask.
An LHSAA hardship committee refused to grant nine Capitol football players eligibility during a hearing Wednesday at the LHSAA office.
The saga continued Thursday when a judge granted a temporary restraining order that allowed the players to compete in a 52-6 loss to rival McKinley. And it will continue this week when a lawsuit against the LHSAA, filed on behalf of the Capitol players by the Recovery School District, is heard.
Ironically, both sides relied on the same point to make their cases. LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson argued the players were ineligible because they transferred from the school, thus breaking their chain of attendance at Capitol.
For the LHSAA, cases involving chain of attendance and 19-year-old students born before Sept. 1 are non-negotiable. Such hardships are not granted.
The purpose of the hardship committee is to look at the rules to see when and where exceptions can be made.
Capitol’s argument in the case of its nine football players constitutes an exceptional situation in more ways than one.
Principal Onetha Albert and community leaders argued the players were among more than 100 students who opted to leave Capitol a year ago as rumors about the school closing swirled throughout the Baton Rouge metro area.
Once the school was reorganized by the state Recovery School District, the players opted to return. The parents of several of the players are proud Capitol graduates. They say their children should have the right to play and graduate as Lions, just as they did.
The circumstances are tough, to say the least. Capitol, once a school with more than 1,000 students when it was part of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, now has 217 students.
A total of 17 players were listed on the first football roster provided to The Advocate this fall. Another roster that included the nine players in question bumped the numbers up.
It’s a compelling case, no matter how you look at it.
Capitol is just two years removed from a berth in the Class 2A semifinals in football. While it would appear these Lions, coached by former Capitol quarterback Damieon Mills, won’t soar to those heights, the addition of nine players could certainly help sustain a season.
This case also has as many sides, or stories, as a geometry figure. Parents say they moved their children to other schools after being told the school would soon close. That decision was one the student-athletes had little or no control over.
On one hand, the move back to Capitol is an exceptional situation. I certainly hope there are no more situations that involve possible school closures.
Others would argue this is a violation of the attendance zone rules and/or a move to create athletic eligibility, another cast iron LHSAA rule that is never waived. Questions about who said what to whom about the possible closure of Capitol is another facet.
I do agree with Albert on one key point. As this case is resolved, I hope both sides keep the interests of the student-athletes in mind. Though some coaches and some members of the LHSAA executive committee will disagree, I’d like to see these guys get their chance.
Whether or not they will remains to be seen. Again, it depends on who you ask.