The board of education for Dayton Public Schools sued the Ohio High School Athletic Association after OHSAA removed Dunbar from the postseason tournament, citing the DPS school’s use of an ineligible player in their tournament opener Feb. 23.
Attorneys for the school board asked the court for a temporary restraining order against OHSAA’s ruling, as well as injunctions placing Dunbar back into the tournament. Dunbar had beaten another DPS school, Thurgood Marshall, to reach the sectional final. OHSAA’s ruling had put Thurgood into that matchup against Fenwick, but DPS is trying to have Thurgood removed and Dunbar put back in that spot.
What is the core issue?
OHSAA says Dunbar used an ineligible player for a few minutes in its Feb. 23 tournament-opening blowout victory over West Carrollton. OHSAA says that player was ineligible because he never served a required two-game suspension after leaving the bench during a Jan. 10 fight at the end of a JV game.
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DPS’ lawsuit says the player, referred to only as “John Doe,” did not earn a suspension because he did not leave the bench to engage in the altercation Jan. 10. They said he left the court to go to the locker room to prepare for the varsity game.
OHSAA officials said after repeated inability to get Dunbar to report which players left the bench, they watched the Jan. 10 game tape last week. OHSAA determined that seven Dunbar players should have served suspensions for leaving the bench, including “John Doe.”
Has this happened before?
Has Dunbar had eligibility issues before? Yes. A year and a half ago, Dunbar’s football team had to forfeit games for using an ineligible player, and those forfeits caused them to miss the playoffs.
Has OHSAA removed a team from the tournament before? Yes. In 2015, Cincinnati Purcell-Marian’s boys basketball team was removed after it had already won the district title. A Purcell athlete who transferred from another school at Christmas break played a few minutes in an early blowout tournament win. After the fact, it was learned that the student had played basketball for his previous school that season, making him ineligible to play for Purcell in the same season. Purcell was removed. The school did not sue.
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Have players been suspended for “leaving the bench” before? Yes. A Dec. 20, 2017, on-court fight between the Fairmont and Trotwood-Madison girls teams led to eight players being suspended. Said Greater Western Ohio Conference Commissioner Eric Spahr at the time, “The incident was not as bad as perceived. The impact of this was based on players leaving the bench. That’s the real issue.”
Why is there confusion?
Thurgood Marshall, the team Dunbar fought with Jan. 10, had seven players serve suspensions as a result of the incident, according to the OHSAA. But Dunbar, a school in the same district, under the same overall athletic director (Mark Baker), suspended only the two players who fought, not those who left the bench, per OHSAA.
The Jan. 10 fight happened with 4 seconds left in the JV game, and the referees declared the game over, meaning there wasn’t a mid-game accounting of which players were ejected or not. And the “John Doe” player wasn’t specified in the referee’s postgame report sent to Dunbar.
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The OHSAA points out that national high school rules say any player leaving the bench during a fight is automatically ejected. But DPS says past practice has not called for schools to suspend athletes who were not specifically ejected by officials.
What happens now?
A hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, before Judge Michael Krumholtz, on DPS’ claim for a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction.
Krumholtz could rule in favor of DPS, which would put Dunbar into a sectional final game against Fenwick at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at UD Arena. Or he could rule in favor of OHSAA, which would put Thurgood Marshall in that game.
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If Krumholtz doesn’t rule immediately, it could force another postponement of the sectional final game. The winner of that game is currently scheduled to face Cincinnati Woodward in the district tournament Saturday.