For the second time in less than a week, Orange City (Fla.) University High’s football team had its playoff hopes dashed — this time in a courtroom.
After a group of University football parents sought an injunction to prevent the Florida High School Athletic Association from forcing the Titans to forfeit a playoff spot for fielding an ineligible player, a judge sided with the FHSAA, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Seventh Circuit Court Judge Raul Zambrano reportedly presided over a three-hour court session and deliberated for a half-hour before denying the request for an injunction.
The ruling comes hours before University was originally scheduled to play Mandarin (Jacksonville, Fla.) in the opening round of Florida’s Class 8A state playoffs. Instead, Oviedo (6-4) — the team with the district’s next-best record — will kick off on Friday night.
“I was trying not to stress, but I was up to 3 a.m. in the morning,” Oviedo coach Wes Allen told the Orlando Sentinel. “We’re glad we’re in. I told our guys go to the locker room and get your stuff. You’re in, get ready to go. We’re going to try to pull out of by 3:30 p.m.
“We’ll load up here, hit the road and get up there and play ball.”
The FHSAA denied last week’s appeal after University self-reported an eligibility violation while preparing paperwork for its playoff roster, following an 8-2 regular-season campaign. The school had not received the requisite transcripts for two previous semesters once the student-athlete transferred from Maryland this past summer. Parents took issue when the entire team was penalized for an administrative error regarding one player who appeared in just 37 plays all season, according to the defense attorney’s version of events in court.
Per the Orlando Sentinel, lawyers cited Florida statute 1006.20(2)(i) in the team’s defense.
The FHSAA bylaws may not limit the competition of student athletes prospectively for rule violations of their school or its coaches or their adult representatives. The FHSAA bylaws may not unfairly punish student athletes for eligibility or recruiting violations perpetrated by a teammate, coach, or administrator. Contests may not be forfeited for inadvertent eligibility violations unless the coach or a school administrator should have known of the violation. Contests may not be forfeited for other eligibility violations or recruiting violations in excess of the number of contests that the coaches and adult representatives responsible for the violations are prospectively suspended.
The FHSAA’s point of contention, it seems, was whether or not the error was “inadvertent,” since it appears University “should have known of the violation.” The school was also fined $1,000 in the process, and University’s athletic director must complete a compliance seminar. The Titans have never qualified for the playoffs in the school’s six-year history.