It took more than five months to write, but the final chapter of Clement Mubungirwa’s high school athletic career at Episcopal is over.
An independent arbitrator did not grant the 19-year-old senior an added year of eligibility in a decision rendered Friday.
Now there’s time to ponder what was and what will be for both Mubungirwa and the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson correctly stated that Friday was not a good day for anybody. Mubungirwa’s backers who envisioned an LHSAA celebration are off the mark.
The truth is, everyone involved lost something along the way since the LHSAA’s executive committee rejected Episcopal and Mubungirwa’s first appeal back in March.
Mubungirwa won’t get to play another down of football or score another goal in soccer for the Knights. He will steadfastly pursue a high school diploma, beating some long odds.
You can’t help pulling for a guy who came to the United States seven years ago from a refugee camp in Uganda with little formal education. It’s fair to say Mubungirwa has worked at least three times as many hours with tutors than on athletics.
Next spring, he’ll graduate and be on track to attend college. Whether there will be an athletic scholarship out there for the 5-foot-9, 170-pounder remains to be seen. He does have an offer to walk on and play football at LSU.
I hope there is a scholarship out there and I hope Mubungirwa gets the chance to reach his full potential as a student-athlete by obtaining a college degree.
That’s the American dream.
What the LHSAA faces may not be an American nightmare, but it might be closer than you think.
I support Episcopal’s right to appeal Mubungirwa’s eligibility and so does the LHSAA’s bylaws. Right or wrong, the LHSAA has applied its 19-year-old age rule consistently since at least the 1950s. Multiple attempts to change the rule have failed.
The fact that Mubungirwa’s case took flight in the Louisiana Legislature and resulted in a law requiring the option of arbitration helps erode the LHSAA’s autonomy and ability to govern itself.
Like it or not, it’s part of the legal process. It’s all about power. Since member principals voted to split its football playoffs into select and nonselect divisions, every LHSAA decision is a point of contention.
Just how the Mubungirwa appeal/arbitration impacts the future of the LHSAA’s public and private school factions also remains to be seen.
There was a fiery reaction by public schools convinced that Episcopal’s appeal was based only on the desire to win in football. You be the judge.
Episcopal has never won a state title in football and endured several losing seasons before current coach Travis Bourgeois was elevated to the head coaching job.
Even though Episcopal didn’t prevail in arbitration, there’s still plenty of consternation on both sides.
Mubungirwa was born 55 days too soon based on LHSAA rules. Episcopal’s appeal happened while LHSAA faced major scrutiny.
The timing wasn’t great for either side.