On Thursday, the UHSAA ruled that East must forfeit seven of its eight victories, eliminating the school from post-season competition. But on Friday, the board of trustees reversed its decision, citing extenuating circumstances.
The statement, released by the Jordan School District Sunday on behalf of Herriman High School, says the overturned decision against East High was "a harsh but completely justifiable decision" and that the UHSAA's final decision was an "arbitrary, capricious, and utterly indefensible decision that treated the two schools differently, is unprecedented, and opens a Pandora's box of problems for future cases."
You can read the entire statement below.
This press release constitutes the position of Herriman High School administration and football coaching staff.
First, it is truly unfortunate that the Utah High School Activities Association was placed in the position of having to make such a difficult decision. However, having assumed that role, the Association has a fiduciary duty to make decisions like this, while being mindful of the best interests of the entire membership, and the integrity of the activity over which they preside. In this case, the five member panel of the Executive Committee made a difficult decision to hold both the Timpview and East football programs equally accountable for playing players who were technically ineligible. They ruled that both schools must forfeit the games in which ineligible players played. Whether you feel that it was right or wrong on an emotional level, it was consistent with prior rulings, it treated both schools equally, and it was justified under the system that we have created.
The five member panel of the Board of Trustees, by all accounts, agonized over the situation. They listened to the outcry of opinions from at least a segment of the public and the emotional pleas of Coach Matich, that “this is was not the fault of the 120 players, it was the fault of administration and the kids should not be punished for adult mistakes.” They then overruled a harsh but completely justifiable decision of the Executive Committee Panel and replaced it with an arbitrary, capricious, and utterly indefensible decision that treated the two schools differently, is unprecedented, and opens a Pandora’s box of problems for future cases. They said Timpview must forfeit every game in which an ineligible player played. But, East only forfeits enough games to land them in 4th place in Region 6. This was presumably a way they thought they could keep the number one team in the state in the playoffs, but sanction them with the loss of home playoff games. The panel did this despite the fact that the Timpview infractions were self-reported and the East infractions were reported by other schools. Timpview’s infractions involved four games and one reserve player. East’s infractions involved seven games and four players, one of whom was a full time starter.
In so doing, they considered the impact on the 120 East kids, but completely ignored the impact on the kids at Timpview, who forfeited every game in which a teammate played that was ineligible only to see East forfeit less than all the games in which an ineligible player played. They ingnored the impact on the kids at Salem Hills and Springville, who earned a right to compete for the fifth place playoff slot on the field, only to be told that due to a Timpview forfeit they no longer get that chance. They ignored the impact on the kids at Cyprus, who receive the message that East must forfeit its region wins against other schools, but not the one against you, so they can stay in the playoffs and you stay out. They ignored the impact on the kids at Mountain View, who are supposed to play a true 4th seed giving them a fighting chance at the last spot in the field of 16. Who, instead, must play the best team in the state, and if they pull off the miracle, must then face another number 1 seed as their reward. They ignored the impact on our kids at Herriman who earned a right, as the number one seed, to be a home field favorite in the first two rounds of the playoff, only to find out they will likely be the first number one seed in state history to be a home underdog in the first round.
Finally, they ignored the impact on every kid in this state who plays sports to whom they owed the fiduciary duty to carry out their responsibilities under rules applied in a just, consistent, and predictable manner.
Make no mistake, the position of Herriman High Football is that we will play anyone, at any time. We will respect them all but fear none. We will play to the best of our ability and walk off the field with our heads held high regardless of the outcome. We want to play East. But we want to earn the right to do so in the semi-finals, at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Playing them in our little corner of the valley in the first round is not the same. It does not carry the monetary rewards and advantages of exposure that such a game should command.
However, this issue is bigger than one game, or one playoff tournament. This unprecedented decision violates the concepts of equality and justice. It destroys the integrity of our system. It upsets the competitive balance that is inherent in our historical playoff format. To participate in the tournament under these circumstances would be to endorse the outcome and condone the hypocrisy. At the same time, not participating robs our kids of an opportunity on the big stage that they worked so hard all year long to secure.
The parents of the involved players are currently considering taking legal action in one or more of the following forms:
1) to prevent this unsupported, unprecedented decision from being
implemented through a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction;
2) for damages based on breach of an actual and/or implied contract
as established by the UHSAA’s past course of conduct; and
3) for violations of the federal and state constitutional rights of
the kids governed by the UHSAA to equal protection of the laws, and to due process; or alternatively
4) for violations of state antitrust laws, and the injunctive
relief and rights to treble damages available thereunder.
They understand that the UHSAA is a private association that is funded through endowment games, playoff game revenue, etc. However, the members of the Board of Trustees are on that board due to their publicly elected positions on school boards and, as such, are state employees and arguably “state actors.” It is at the very least quasi-governmental in nature. However, if in fact, UHSAA is held to be wholly private and non-governmental, it may be in violation of Utah anti-trust laws, embodied in Utah Code § 76-10-911 through 926, because it has created a monopoly on high school athletics, due to restrictions on playing non-member schools or playing other member schools in non-sanctioned games. This along with its monopoly rights to photos and video recordings of events may create an unfair restraint of trade and competition for high school athletic properties.
There are only two possible outcomes that could be considered a consistent and just application of the rules. The first and most easily supported decision is to reinstate the decision of the panel of the Executive Committee and forfeit all games in which ineligible players played. Though justified, this result does punish innocent kids because their administrations did not follow the rules. That would be nothing new. Unfortunately, it would also mean that the team widely regarded as the best in 4A would not be included in the playoffs. The second arguably reasonable outcome, is to let both teams keep the victories already earned, on the assumption that the ineligible players did not materially affect the outcome of the games, and keep both teams in the tournament in the positions that their on field results would place them, using other sanctions to punish the offending administrations without taking the playoffs away from the kids. Each of these results, though imperfect, are justified under the rules as written, treat both Timpview and East equally, punish the responsible parties, and limit the negative impacts on other members of the association, who are completely innocent third parties. One of these two results and not some arbitrary, unequal, and indefensible hybrid, is the only way to maintain the integrity of the 2012 4A Football playoffs. Any other result is a travesty that cannot go unchallenged by those seeking to maintain their own integrity.