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Decision No. 13,540

Appeal of THOMAS DUANE to review a determination of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Inc. and Schalmont Central School District regarding eligibility to participate in interscholastic sports.

Decision No. 13,540

(January 25, 1996)

Benjamin T. Garry, Esq., attorney for petitioner

McGivern, Shaw, O'Connor, Esqs., attorneys for respondent

NYSPHSAA, Ronald R. Shaw, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association ("respondent" or "NYSPHSAA") that he will not be eligible to participate in interscholastic sports during the 1995-96 school year. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner is a high school student in the Schalmont Central School District. He played football during the 1991-92, 1993-94 and 1994-95 school years. He did not play football during the 1992-93 school year and played only one football game during the 1994-95 school year as a result of injuries he sustained in an automobile accident during that season.

Schalmont Central School District apparently filed an application with respondent's Section II Eligibility Committee on petitioner's behalf to allow his participation in interscholastic athletics during the 1995-96 school year. That request was denied in a letter dated August 7, 1995. Petitioner appealed to the NYSPHSAA Appeal Panel which issued a decision dated August 21, 1995 denying petitioner's request for extended eligibility. Petitioner asserts that he did not participate in athletics during the 1992-93 school year because of behavioral problems stemming from his parents' divorce. This appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief pending a determination on the merits was denied on September 21, 1995.

Petitioner alleges that he was unable to participate in athletics during the 1992-93 school year for reasons beyond his control. He seeks a determination setting aside respondent's decision prohibiting him from playing football during the 1995-96 school year. Respondent argues that its determination was appropriate and should not be set aside.

Section 135.4(c)(7)(ii)(b)(1) of the Commissioner's regulations governs student participation in interscholastic sports and provides in pertinent part:

(1) Duration of competition. A pupil shall be eligible for senior high school athletic competition in a sport during each of four consecutive seasons of such sport commencing with the pupil's entry into the ninth grade and prior to graduation, except as otherwise provided in this subclause...

(i) If sufficient evidence is presented by the chief school officer to the section to show that the pupil's failure to enter competition during one or more seasons of a sport was caused by illness, accident, or similar circumstances beyond the control of the student, such pupil's eligibility shall be extended accordingly in that sport.

Petitioner contends that he should be allowed to participate in interscholastic athletics during the 1995-96 school year despite the fact that the 1995-96 school year would be his fifth year of eligibility since he entered the ninth grade during the 1991-92 school year. Petitioner asserts that he experienced behavioral problems after his parents' divorce which prevented him from participating in athletics during the 1992-93 school year. He also argues that the fact that he was only able to participate in one game during the 1994-95 school year as a result of the injuries he sustained in an automobile accident provides a separate additional basis to extend his eligibility.

A review of the record indicates that petitioner has failed to demonstrate that he did not enter competition because of "illness, accident, or similar circumstances beyond the control of the student." A student who does not participate during a period of eligibility, but who is physically able to do so, is not entitled to an extension of eligibility (Appeal of Bethe, 34 Ed Dept Rep 526; Matter of Clowe, 21 id. 192; Matter of Bd. of Educ., Island Trees UFSD, et al., 19 id. 243). In this case, petitioner did not participate in athletics during the 1992-93 school year but was physically able to do so and was not precluded from competition during his four-year eligibility period. Although he was injured after one game during the 1994-95 season, respondent determined that he had "entered competition" because he was a member of the football team and the team had completed a contest under NYSPHSAA rules. While I am sympathetic to petitioner's arguments, I concur with respondent's determination that an extension of petitioner's eligibility to participate in interscholastic high school athletics during the 1995-96 school year is not warranted.

I have reviewed the parties' remaining contentions and find them without merit.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE