MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
TAMPA — Four Armwood football players ruled ineligible in the wake of a high-profile probe get their de facto day in court Friday, accompanied by an attorney equipped with what he deems a compelling argument:
The Florida High School Athletic Association’s residency stipulations are woefully outdated.
Tampa attorney Peter Hobson will accompany the four players to this Friday morning’s FHSAA Section 3 Appeals Committee meeting at the Manatee Community Action Agency in Bradenton. The objective: to convince the seven-member committee the players’ eligibility for the 2012 season should be restored.
“In the practice of law, they say which would your rather have, good facts or good law?” Hobson said. “I think we have good facts, I just don’t know how they’re going to apply the law.”
Armwood was forced to forfeit its 2011 state title and pay more than $12,000 in fines after a six-month investigation determined five members of the 2011 team falsified residence information to enroll at the school.
During the investigation, principal Michael Ippolito ruled five other players who transferred to the school following the 2011 season also were ineligible. Two of the four being represented by Hobson were members of the 2011 team; the other two transferred to the school in January.
All four have parents who are divorced or separated, which Hobson said is a critical fact.
Current FHSAA bylaws allow students to transfer if their families make a “full and complete” residence move. Bylaw 188.8.131.52 states, “A student and his/her parents cannot occupy a residence at more than one address, and only the student’s current residence may be used for eligibility purposes.”
Hobson argues that flies in the face of updated Florida statutes regarding child support and parental time-sharing duties for divorced couples. Hobson noted the parents of one of the players he’s representing has a “50-50” time-share arrangement with the court.
“(The FHSAA bylaw) is outdated,” Hobson said. “That rule was probably designed in the Donna Reed (Show) era, where you had all three kids living at home and coming home to mom and dad.”
The seven who will hear the argument include impartial representatives of public and non-public schools, and one attorney. Should the players lose their cases, they can appeal to the FHSAA board of directors.
If nothing else, Hobson said, he hopes today’s proceedings will give the parents a chance to be heard, a courtesy he says they weren’t afforded during the six-month investigation he considers flawed.
“This,” Hobson said, “is what they wanted before the report ever came out.”
Joey Knight can be reached at email@example.com