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Oklahoma Supreme Court slams OSSAA

Justices ruled association that oversees high school athletics acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in punishing the football team from Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah.
by Nolan Clay Modified: October 2, 2013 at 10:00 am •  Published: October 2, 2013

“The OSSAA wields too much control over their future to be allowed to act in an arbitrary and capricious manner in applying its rules. It must be reasonable, it must be conscientious and it must be fair. From now on, we trust, it will be.”

Challenging the OSSAA's sanctions to the Supreme Court was the team's quarterback, Brayden Scott. He since has graduated.

His attorney, Chad Smith, said, “It was heartbreaking for these kids not to be able to compete for that state championship.”

The attorney said the OSSAA policies are difficult to understand and the school did not believe it had done anything wrong in paying for camps.

“Our coaches had no clue that was against any rules because when they went to these camps they'd look around and there would be two dozen other schools there doing exactly the same thing,” said Smith, the former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

“In this case, the policies were convoluted and inconsistent,” he said. “You sit down to read them it would take you days to figure out what you think they said. When you have such an organization, the rules and policies have to be readable … so you don't get yourself in trouble.”

One justice dissents

In a dissent, Justice Steven Taylor wrote that any changes at the OSSAA should be initiated by the Legislature or its member schools.

“This case is certainly not worthy of any relief due to the fact that this student, coach and school clearly and flagrantly violated the rules,” Taylor wrote.

OSSAA will evaluate what needs to be done after reviewing the opinion, its executive director, Ed Sheakley, said Tuesday.

“We will obviously discuss this at our October board meeting,” he said.

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, said recommendations will be made to OSSAA once the legislative hearings are over.

“We are going to make recommendations for … the OSSAA to make changes in the way they do business,” the legislator said. “I don't think that it will happen because the director is so egotistical and thinks he's above everybody that he's going to still think that they're perfect, that they don't make any mistakes.”

He said legislators next year may have to pass laws to force the association to make changes.

“I really wish that they would recognize that they have a problem and fix it. I don't think that's going to happen,” Cleveland said.