Less than a week after Dunbar High School was kicked out of the state basketball tournament, they are back in the hunt for a title.
Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Krumholtz overruled the Ohio High School Athletic Association on Tuesday, saying that OHSAA made a mistake in booting Dunbar from the tournament for violations of state regulations.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from Tuesday’s court battle and decision.
1. It’s almost game time
There’s nothing like cutting it close as the tournament game, originally scheduled for Sunday, was rescheduled for 9:30 p.m. today. In the game, which serves as a sectional final, Dunbar will take on Middletown Fenwick.
OHSAA had previously disqualified Dunbar from the tournament, saying the team used an ineligible player in its Feb. 23 tournament opener. Another Dayton Public School, Thurgood Marshall, was put in Dunbar’s place and has been practicing in case they got a shot.
The decision means the team at Thurgood Marshall is back out of the tournament.
2. OHSAA won’t appeal
While OHSAA is not planning to appeal the judge’s decision, they did have some harsh criticism for Dayton Public Schools on Tuesday.
OHSAA official Tim Stried released a statement after the judge’s rulling. In the statement he said that the “highest levels” of the DPS administration failed to take responsibility for the incident.
“The OHSAA is disappointed in the outcome of the court’s decision today, but will not pursue an appeal,” Stried said in a prepared statement. “Despite the court’s decision to allow Dunbar High School back into the tournament, it is clear that violations of OHSAA regulations took place.”
3. DPS attorney claims it was retaliation
DPS faced allegations of wrongdoing during a football game on Oct. 28, 2016 and OHSAA placed all Dayton Public Schools athletics teams on a three-year probation. The district was also fined $10,000.
DPS’s attorney on Tuesday claimed that OHSAA’s move to kick Dunbar out of the state tournament was retaliation for the football incident.
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“We know what’s going on here: OHSAA has it out for DPS because of a football game a year ago,” DPS attorney Brian Wildermuth said.
Steven Craig, OHSAA’s attorney shot back, saying “to say we’re doing this because we’re out to get them is offensive.”
4. No word on discipline for DPS staff
The judge’s decision was of course the one acting DPS superintendent Elizabeth Lolli wanted to hear, she said on Tuesday.
But, Lolli would not say whether athletic director Mark Baker or any other staff had been disciplined as a result of the case. This news organization has filed public records requests regarding DPS’ investigation into the situation.
“We want to make sure we send a strong message about accountability and responsibility. We expect that our administrators and our ADs at all levels follow the rules and know the rules, and make sure that we enforce the rules because we only hurt our student athletes if we do not,” Lolli said.
5. It all came down to one thing
The case essentially hinged on whether one player left the bench area during a Jan. 10 game fight against Thurgood Marshall.
Leaving the team bench during a fight is a violation of national and OHSAA rules, triggering a two-game suspension. The player would be ineligible until he has served the two-game suspension.
Both sides agreed that the player in question participated in that Jan. 10 JV game, never served a suspension tied to that game, and later appeared in Dunbar’s postseason tournament opener.
If the player —a juvenile whom this news outlet is naming only as “John Doe”—played in a tournament game while ineligible, Dunbar would be removed from the tournament, as they were last week.