Okla. Lawsuit Holds Up Play
High court to decide school football dispute
The fall months in Oklahoma are usually associated with fierce rivalries and stiff competition as the football playoffs heat up. But in the state’s Class 5A championships, not a single game has been played since Nov. 19.
Still, “it’s been a wild couple weeks,” said Danny Rennels, the executive secretary of the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, which postponed play for the three teams vying for the championship.
The reason for the drama? A case before the Oklahoma Supreme Court over the suspension of a quarterback who kicked a member of an opposing team must be decided before the playoffs could resume.
“The fact of the case is very clear,” Mr. Rennels said. “The player kicked another player.”
In line with association policy, officials ejected Shawnee High School junior Tucker Brown—the son of Shawnee coach Billy Brown—from the Nov. 19 game for kicking a Booker T. Washington High School lineman, and suspended him for the following two games for violating the group’s rule against fighting. The incident occurred in the final seconds of the game.
When the Shawnee team appealed the decision and the association refused to rescind the suspension, the quarterback’s mother, Suzanne Leigh Brown, filed a request in a local court for a temporary injunction to let her son play. On Nov. 23, a district court judge ruled in favor of the Shawnee player, on the grounds that the officials had allowed the Washington High coaches to stay on the field after the incident, and that the coaches possibly influenced the referees’ decision.
Mr. Rennels postponed the semifinal game between Shawnee High and East Central High School that was scheduled for Nov. 26 so that his organization could appeal to the state supreme court.
The Browns’ lawyer, Terry W. West, filed a brief contending, among other arguments, that the game’s officials had unfairly failed to penalize several Washington High players for other fouls committed during the game, and that the association’s rules say that the two-game suspension applies only to regular games, not playoff games.
The Supreme Court overturned the injunction and upheld the suspension on Dec. 8. The playoffs were scheduled to resume Dec.10.
Vol. 25, Issue 15, Page 18Published in Print: December 14, 2005, as Okla. Lawsuit Holds Up Play