, Muskogee, OK

November 7, 2012

Indian players reinstated but SHS playoff ruling stands

By Lenzy Krehbiel- Burton

— OKLAHOMA CITY — After almost two hours of arguments, questions and an extended executive session, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association voted unanimously Wednesday afternoon to reinstate the athletic eligibility of 11 of 12 Sequoyah High School football players ruled ineligible last month after the school paid for the students to attend individual summer camps.

With Wednesday’s decision, the students will be eligible to compete in other sports during the 2012-2013 school year, including basketball, baseball and track. The decision, however, does not impact the football playoffs set to begin this week. Sequoyah will still have to forfeit its nine victories, its District 3A-7 championship and top seed out of the district into the postseason.

The eligibility of an additional player, originally identified as “Student A,” was not restored. Citing privacy concerns, Sequoyah athletic director Marcus Crittenden and Cherokee Nation communications director Amanda Clinton declined to provide the student’s name. A source confirmed after the hearing that the student is senior quarterback Brayden Scott.

Crittenden did not comment on whether Scott would further appeal the decision and no reason was given at Wednesday’s meeting why Scott was specifically exempted from the reinstatement decision.

“I don’t like to punish kids,” OSSAA board member Mike Kellogg said before a standing room only crowd at the board’s headquarters. “However, life is not always fair. This is not any fun.”

Along with the eligibility reinstatement of 11 students, Crittenden said the board also approved seven recommendations for the school’s athletic department effective immediately.

Under the recommendations, Sequoyah is prohibited from conducting spring football practice next semester. The team can not conduct team clinics during summer 2013 and players are not allowed to participate in any 7-on-7 passing league teams. The team is also not allowed to participate in any inter-school scrimmages before the start of the 2013 season.

Sequoyah High School is now on warning status for two years. If additional serious rule violations are committed during the next two years, the school could be placed on probation or suspended from OSSAA membership.

The school is required to complete an operational audit by Jan. 14, 2013, of all sports programs to determine whether any other students are ineligible, whether coaches are knowledgeable and complying with policies and what institutional policy changes are necessary to ensure compliance with.

The board also requested that Sequoyah coach Brent Scott be formally suspended from all coaching duties for a year from all OSSAA member schools. Scott is currently on administrative leave and awaits a December appeal hearing.

Grigg — who the board formally suspended from any athletic director duties for a year — had already been replaced as athletic director earlier this year. Both would have to seek reinstatement from the OSSSAA board before resuming either duty.

Additionally, all current students whose individual camp expenses were paid by the school are now required to repay the school or show documentation of their financial inability to do so. Payment plans and waivers can be considered but have to be discussed with the OSSAA before being implemented.

The football forfeitures were not discussed during Wednesday’s appeal hearing.

“How much punishment do you need?” asked attorney Tim Baker, who represented four of the student-athletes during the hearing. “I submit enough’s been given already. These seniors are missing the playoffs.”

In 2011, the organization amended its bylaws to prohibit schools, coaches, booster clubs and non-family members from paying camp fees. That change left an open argument for one of the attorneys present Wednesday afternoon.

“Sequoyah is not a stand-alone charter school,” former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said. “It is a program of the Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Interior.

“Looking at this policy, governments are not prohibited from paying camp fees.”

Representing Brayden and Brent Scott, Smith also accused the board of applying the rule retroactively to camps attended by Sequoyah students between 2004 and 2009, a charge denied by OSSAA attorney Mark Grossman during a pointed exchange.

In addition to the football players’ appeal, three additional Sequoyah student-athletes had eligibility waiver appeals denied by the board.

Juniors Courtney and Amy Tiger, who competed in all of the Lady Indians’ basketball games as freshmen were unanimously denied a retroactive hardship waiver. The sisters attended Briggs Schools before starting at Sequoyah in ninth grade.

“When they started as freshmen, they didn’t know there was a residency policy,” John Tiger, the girls’ father, said. “When they were freshmen, the Sequoyah bus stopped right by our house. We figured they’d have a better chance there academically and we liked that it is an all-Indian school.

“If I had known they would have had to forfeit their junior year, I would have made them sit out as freshmen.”

“We looked at going to Tahlequah,” Courtney Tiger tearfully told the board. “It was just too big a school for me. It was my choice to go to Sequoyah.”

An appeal from Caisen Green was also denied in executive session. Crittenden did not have a timetable for when any of the students would be reinstated or any additional penalties that would be levied.