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OHSAA responds and will not appeal after judge rules Dunbar back in tournament

UPDATE, 8:45 p.m.:

The OHSAA released a statement Tuesday after Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Krumholtz issued a ruling allowing Dunbar High School back into the state tournament.

OHSAA official Tim Stried-“The OHSAA is disappointed in the outcome of the court’s decision today, but will not pursue an appeal. Despite the court’s decision to allow Dunbar High School back into the tournament, it is clear that violations of OHSAA regulations took place and in the aftermath of the incident there was a lack of administrative responsibility from the highest levels of Dayton Public Schools.”

UPDATE, 7 p.m.: Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Michael Krumholtz ruled that the OHSAA had, in fact, made a mistake in its ruling against Dunbar.

He wrote that “Upon a thorough review of the video from the January 10, 2018 brawl, the Court counts five players on the court, and at most, seven on the Dunbar bench at the time the fight broke out.”

Krumholtz writes that Dunbar Coach Chuck Taylor, who is aDayton Municipal Court bailiff, provided an “unrefuted explanation” for the whereabouts of the key 13th player, John Doe. Taylor testified that he saw John Doe in the locker room hallway as he went out to the ongoing melee.

RELATED: OHSAA calls handling of Dunbar issue “puzzling”

“Coach Taylor can be seen in the videos exiting the Dunbar locker room area,” Krumholtz wrote. “The Court did not observe any player head into the locker room from the beginning of the video, which starts shortly before the commission of the “hard foul,” until Coach Taylor appears. Thus, as Coach Taylor testified, John Doe was already in the locker room hallway before the fight broke out.”

UPDATE, 5:45 p.m.: Dunbar’s boys basketball team won a court ruling against the Ohio High School Athletic Association on Tuesday, at least temporarily placing the team back in Ohio’s postseason tournament.

RELATED: Step-by-step look at Dunbar case, from Jan. 10 to today

OHSAA officials could not immediately be reached for comment on whether they would appeal the 10-page ruling.

Dunbar is now scheduled to play Middletown Fenwick in a sectional final game at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Last week, the OHSAA had disqualified Dunbar from the tournament, saying they used an ineligible player in their Feb. 23 tournament opener. Another Dayton Public School, Thurgood Marshall, was put in Dunbar’s place.

APRIL 2017: All DPS schools get 3 years of OHSAA probation

But Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Krumholtz overruled that move by OHSAA on Tuesday.

The district had argued the OHSAA failed to prove a player who played in a tournament game for the varsity was not involved in a junior varsity game fight in January between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall.

UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Judge Michael Krumholtz said he knows many people are waiting for his decision, which he hopes to have this afternoon or evening.

Krumholtz ended the hearing in which Dayton Public Schools requested a restraining order to block the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s ruling that removed Dunbar from the tournament and reinstated Thurgood Marshall to play Middletown Fenwick.

Krumholtz will issue a written ruling, meaning no additional court session would be required.

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UPDATE, 2:10 p.m.: Steven Craig, OHSAA’s attorney, argues there’s a plethora of reliable information regarding the fight between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall’s reserve teams in January: 13 names in scorebook, and 13 players in video. He said that is true, whether or not they can ID them by name or number.

The OHSAA argues not a single Dunbar player is seen leaving until well after the fight broke up.

Craig says it “stretches the imagination” to say Dunbar sent the key player in the eligibility issue to the locker room near the end of the JV game.

The OHSAA faults Dunbar administrators who failed to do what they were supposed to do. “If they had, we wouldn’t be here today,” the OHSAA attorney said.

There have been other issues that have come up between Dunbar and OHSAA since the football game that led to all Dayton schools being placed on probation. Those issues were handled normally, the OHSAA attorney said. “To say we’re doing this because we’re out to get them is offensive,” Craig said.

UPDATE, 2 p.m.: DPS attorney Brian Wildermuth argued that, if OHSAA made a mistake or acted arbitrarily, the court can set aside the OHSAA decision and put Dunbar basketball back in tourney.

Wildermuth said there’s no evidence key player in the eligibility dispute left the bench or even was on the bench. Wildermuth calls the OHSAA investigation “shoddy” and said no one can identify the player on the game video.

Wildermuth said, “We know what’s going on here: OHSAA has it out for DPS because of a football game a year ago.”

Wildermuth asks, “Why, after six weeks, they churn up an issue that hadn’t been an issue all along?” Wildermuth says it’s a game of “gotcha.”

UPDATE, 1:50 p.m.: Dunbar varsity basketball coach Chuck Taylor said he was in the locker room when the fight started between the reserve team and Thurgood Marshall in January. Taylor said the player at the crux of this eligibility fight was coming into the locker room when Taylor was coming out.

Taylor said a JV coach sent the key player in the dispute to the locker room.

Taylor testified he could only make out a few of the jersey numbers of players on the video of the Jan. 10 fight. He said he couldn’t see the player at the heart of the eligibility issue on the video.

Taylor, asked why Dunbar didn’t suspend players for coming off the bench, said, “It’s up to the referee to help us out and give us some numbers.”

Taylor said DPS administrators suspended two players who clearly fought on the video.

UPDATE, 1:35 p.m.: As court resumes, the key arguments appear to be: attorneys for Dayton schools focused on OHSAA’s uncertainty of whether 7 or 8 players were on the bench for the fight. OHSAA has said regardless of the exact number, all players left the bench and should have been suspended.

UPDATE, 1:10 p.m: The court took a 20-minute break. One more witness is expected to testify for DPS. The OHSAA lawyer said he did not anticipate calling any witnesses.

Before the break, the OHSAA attorney focused on the fact that DPS schools are voluntary members of OHSAA. A court memo the OHSAA filed this morning cites precedent limiting schools’ ability to challenge the group.

UPDATE, 1:04 p.m.: OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross testifies that OHSAA could not identify Dunbar players on bench by name, number or physical description. Their ruling was based on number of people who left the bench.

DPS and OHSAA have disagreed if there were seven or eight players on the bench.

UPDATE, 12:41 p.m.: Dunbar Athletic Director Quiona Boffman testified that she was at the January game in which Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall players fought. Boffman said she worked to get everyone back to their seats and described the scene as chaotic.

Boffman says once she read the game ejection report, she left a voicemail for OHSAA’s Ben Ferree asking him to call her back for corrections. She testified she is certain she left Ferree a voicemail message including her name and contact info within one week of the fight.

DPS asks Boffman if she made a “good-faith effort” to contact OHSAA officials — pointing out it was critical in their decision making. She said yes.

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.: The Dayton Public Schools lawyer sought a break in the hearing, but Judge Michael Krumholtz said time was of the essence in resolving which teams would be in the state basketball tournament, and told the lawyer to call his next witness. The parties have been in court since 8:30 a.m.

Dunbar Athletic Director Quiona Boffman is taking the stand.

UPDATE, 12:24 p.m.: Jerry Snodgrass, an OHSAA official, testified in court today about Dunbar players and a fight with Thurgood Marshall players in a junior varsity game: “Every single player that was on that bench left towards the fight.”

OHSAA attorney asked if Snodgrass or anyone else in his office has the authority to change the by laws in this rule book — Snodgrass says no. He is referring to the rule that states any players who come off the bench during a brawl are required to be suspended.

Snodgrass says it’s the school’s primary responsibility to discipline players when violation has occurred. 

UPDATE, 12:05 p.m.: The OHSAA’s Jerry Snodgrass said after watching three different angles of fight, he determined no Dunbar players stayed on the bench once the fight broke out. He says he learned none of those players served suspensions.

Snodgrass then explained how disruptive a ruling such as making Dunbar forfeit and reinstating Thurgood Marshall, which lost to Dunbar last week, would be to the other teams in the state tournament, especially when it is made so closely to the scheduled game date.

UPDATE, 11:59 a.m.: A state official today said he first saw a game video of the Jan. 10 fight between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall junior varsity players last Wednesday.

Snodgrass, director of sport management for OHSAA, watched video with OHSAA executive director Dan Ross and other OHSAA employees.

OHSAA’s lawyer asks Snodgrass about his role, and he said he was to compare what happened Jan. 10 to national federation rules about leaving the bench and consequences listed in OHSAA regulations.

UPDATE, 11:44 a.m.: Communications between Dayton Public Schools and the OHSAA are again are the focus of Brian Wildermuth, the DPS attorney.

He asks: Is there anything that prevents OHSAA calling the school or district? OHSAA’s Jerry Snodgrass: “No. And all of the ADs have my cell phone number too to reach out.”

UPDATE, 11:35 a.m.: OHSAA’s Jerry Snodgrass now on stand in Dunbar case. He’s director of sport management and oversees multiple team sports, including basketball.

Snodgrass said he heard of a bench-clearing brawl at the Jan. 10 Dunbar-Thurgood game, and he agrees the group should look into it. But he said he waits for officiating reports to come in. They have 48 hours to file those.

“We also rely on our member schools,” he said.

UPDATE, 11:14 a.m.: OHSSA’s final report on the fight involving Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall players in January says 7 Dunbar players came off the bench, but the scorebook seems to indicate there were 8 players there that night. More noticeable grumbles come from the courtroom audience because of this discrepancy.

UPDATE, 11:10 a.m.: The DPS attorney said to an OHSAA official, “People at OHSAA don’t have a fond spot for Dunbar, do they?”

Ben Ferree, the OHSAA’s assistant director of officiating in sports management, says he doesn’t know what the attorney is talking about.

In its court filing to get Dunbar reinstated to the tournament, DPS argued the OHSAA acted out of spite against the district. All DPS schools were placed on state probation because of a Dunbar football athletic scandal from the 2016 season.

Ferree says it would have been a waste of time to speak to the player in question and the player’s mother. DPS attorney continues to grill him why he would not do that.

UPDATE, 10:51 a.m.: Ferree says multiple people at OHSAA, including himself, watched the video footage of the fight and went over the list of players who participated in the game that January night.

Ferree says OHSAA’s decision was based what they saw in the score sheets, video camera footage of the fight and the referee report.

Ferree says he does not know which players were involved in the fight between the two schools, even though he was in the room going over video footage with other OHSAA officials.

UPDATE, 10:45 a.m.: Ferree admits he did not ask for specific player information until after he sent several emails.

Ferree reads another email Dunbar Athletic Director Quiona Boffman sent him in February, asking for more guidance on this matter. Ferree admits he never responded. There is a noticeable grumbling in the audience.

UPDATE, 10:40 a.m.: Communication problems between Dayton Public Schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association became the focus of a court hearing.

Ferree reviewed two emails between himself and Boffman. Ferree says he emailed her and he read over her response — but said he never received it. Ferree said he does not know why the email never showed up in his inbox.

Ferree said no one ever responded to Boffman’s email because no one received it, for whatever reason. After that, Ferree sent another email letting Boffman know Dunbar had been disqualified.

UPDATE, 10:30 a.m.: When court resumes, Dayton Public Schools’ attorney calls to the stand Feree, whose his responsibilities include official discipline and objection reports.

One issue the school district and OHSAA have disagreed about is communication after the January fight and the March tournament game that the state ruled Dunbar forfeited for using an ineligble player.

Feree says he did not receive any voicemail message from Dunbar’s athletic director.

DPS attorney shows document proving the Dunbar athletic director did send an email to OHSAA asking for guidance on the situation. Feree admits OHSAA never responded to that email, and he did not know about the email until days after DPS filed the lawsuit.

UPDATE, 10:05 a.m.: The case is on a 15-minute break.

Before that, Dunbar reserve boys basketball coach Donovan Brown says he’s gone through the security video footage 20-30 times but never saw the player in question here today. OHSAA officials say that player should have been suspended too, but DPS argues he was not involved.

UPDATE, 9:58 a.m.: Brown says the brawl between his players and Thurgood Marshall in January was scary and chaotic. He said he treats his players as his kids and describes how fans started running towards the court with big jackets on and describes how he tried stopping them from getting to the kids.

Brown testifies the first punch was thrown by one of Thurgood Marshall’s players. Brown said he, security and parents eventually got brawl under control, but it took some time.

UPDATE, 9:48 a.m.: DPS attorney calls Brown to the stand and witnesses the Jan. 10 fight between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall players.

Brown said he was trying to get kids off the court as the fight happened. He said that, in the games final minute, a Thurgood Marshall player grabbed the rebound, then Dunbar’s player committed a foul to stop the clock. It was a harsh foul, he said, and that’s when players began chest bumping, then fighting.

UPDATE, 9:42 a.m.: The attorney for DPS questions the referee and asks if he was on the bench and his safety was threatened, would he leave the bench? He said he would.

The OHSAA attorney asks the referee if he saw any players running away from the fight after leaving the bench. He said he did not.

The referee’s testimony ends.

UPDATE, 9:35 a.m.: OHSAA now cross examining referee about the junior varsity game between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall. They roll the video footage again, clearly showing a Dunbar player shove a Thurgood Marshall player with the ball down to the ground. The fight then begins.

Once again, based off video footage, OHSAA’s lawyer asks if any bench players remained on the bench. The referee says no and acknowledges the rule is that anyone who leaves the bench must be suspended.

“The rule doesn’t distinguish between those who leave the bench and participate in the fight. If you leave the bench you are disqualified,” said the OHSAA attorney. He then points out all Dunbar players had left the bench.

UPDATE:, 9:30 a.m.: A key argument is emerging in Dayton’s fight to get Dunbar reinstated. The district’s lawyers asked a referee about suspensions from fights, and what happens to players who are trying to avoid the fight.

The referee testifying says players who throw punches get two-game suspensions, and so do players who come off the bench.

DPS asks referee what he knows about rules when a player comes off the bench to get away from the fight. OHSAA attorney objects, Judge Michael Krumholtz overrules. Referee responds, says he does not know the rules on that matter.

UPDATE, 9:23 a.m.: Dayton Public Schools calls referee to the stand to talk about what he saw in the junior varsity game between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall that is key to the court battle today.

DPS attorney asks referee to read over the summary he submitted to OHSAA of the altercation in January JV game. Referee says he saw #22 hard foul anther player on the court.

Referee says he gave two numbers of players involved in fight to officials. He says one player from Thurgood and another player from Dunbar threw punches.

UPDATE, 9:15 a.m.: OHSAA’s attorney asks DPS Executive Director of Safety and Security Richard Wright to identify a player getting pulled off the court during the fight. Wright cannot ID the player but says it’s his understanding it’s a player and his father. Wright says coaches from both teams reviewed the video footage.

Both sides are finished asking Wright questions.

UPDATE, 9:10 a.m.: The OHSAA attorney asks to see the second camera angle of the fight between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall. He has Wright point out that every Dunbar player left the bench once the fight broke out.

UPDATE:, 9:05 a.m.: The DPS attorney asks Wright what the district’s decision was after watching video footage of the fight. Wright says Athletic Director Mark Baker said two Dunbar players and two Thurgood Marshall players were involved, and they were suspended from games as a result.

UPDATE, 9 a.m.: The video of the fight between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall is being shown in court. That fight, and what players were suspended for two games afterward, are at the center of the fight between Dayton Public Schools and the OHSAA.

In the video, security takes some players by the arm and escorts them off the court. The fight begins and ends within a few minutes, and DPS’ lawyers show how close it was to the Dunbar bench.

UPDATE, 8:50 a.m.: DPS has called Executive Director of Safety and Security Richard Wright as a witness to the stand.

Wright says he was at the junior varsity basketball game in January when Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall’s teams got into a “bench-clearing” brawl. He says when he walked into the gym, players were already fighting and getting separated, and he started escorting people away from the gym.

UPDATE, 8:45 a.m.: Court has began for the case between the Ohio High School Athletic Association and Dayton Public Schools.

EARLIER: Attorneys for Dayton’s school board and the Ohio High School Athletic Association are expected in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court today, as they argue whether Dunbar High School’s boys basketball team should be reinstated into the postseason tournament.

A hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. before Judge Michael Krumholtz, on Dayton Public Schools’ request for a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction.

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.

In its second game, Dunbar had beaten another DPS school, Thurgood Marshall, to reach the sectional final. OHSAA’s ruling had put Thurgood into that matchup against Middletown Fenwick, but DPS is trying to have Thurgood removed and Dunbar put back in that spot.

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.

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.

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News Center 7’s Caroline Reinwald contributed to this report.

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