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Decision No. 12,684

Appeal of SALLY DELLEFAVE AND LAUREN DUFFY, on behalf of ANTHONY DELLEFAVE, JOSH COLEMAN AND CHRIS RIATTO, from a determination of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Inc., relating to interscholastic sports.

Decision No. 12,684

(April 14, 1992)

McGivern, Shaw & O'Connor, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Ronald R. Shaw, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeals from respondent's determination denying their request to permit three students to participate in interscholastic wrestling on behalf of the Greece Athena High School. Petitioners had requested a stay to permit these students to participate on the wrestling team while the appeal was pending, and that request was denied by letter dated November 7, 1991. The appeal must be dismissed.

In 1987, the Greece Central School District requested permission to merge the Greece Arcadia school wrestling program with that which represented Athena High School. The basis for the merger request was that Arcadia did not have enough students to constitute a wrestling team, and a decision had been made to convert Arcadia into a middle school, comprising grades six through eight, within two years. The request was granted and thereafter Josh Coleman, Chris Riatto and Anthony Dellefave were allowed to represent the Greece Athena High School wrestling team. Increasing enrollments in subsequent years necessitated continuation of Arcadia's status as a high school, comprising grades nine through twelve. Consequently, the wrestling program at Arcadia was gradually redeveloped, resulting in Arcadia having a junior varsity program during the 1990-91 school year and a full fledged varsity program during the 1991-92 season. Until the 1991-92 season, the three students had been permitted to continue to represent the Greece Athena High School wrestling team. The 1991-92 school year is the senior high school year for each of the students involved.

A request was made to permit the students to continue to represent the Greece Athena High School in interscholastic wrestling for the 1991-92 school year. That request was denied and appeals were pursued through the Executive Committee of the section and ultimately, to the Executive Committee of respondent New York State Public High School Athletic Association, Inc. (NYSPHSAA). Respondent considered the arguments advanced in favor of permitting the three students to continue to represent the Greece Athena High School, and a decision was issued on August 9, 1991, denying petitioners the relief they sought. The oral decision was given to petitioners' attorney on the date it was rendered, and was confirmed in a letter dated August 14, 1991. The appeal in this matter was served upon respondent on October 15, 1991.

The issue raised in this appeal is whether the Commissioner's Regulations concerning athletic eligibility require that a student be enrolled in the school he or she represents in interscholastic sports. The pertinent provision provides:

(2) Registration. A pupil shall be eligible for interschool competition in a sport during a semester, provided that he is a bona fide student, enrolled during the first 15 school days of such semester, is registered in the equivalent of three regular courses, is meeting the physical education requirement, and has been in regular attendance 80 percent of the school time, bona fide absence caused by personal illness excepted. (8 NYCRR "135.4[c][7][ii][b][2]).

The eligibility standard set forth in the handbook published by the NYSPHSAA defines bona fide student:

1. Bona fide student. A contestant must be bona fide student of the high school represented and must be taking at least four subjects including physical education.


The joining together of students from two or more member schools in the same district or close proximity to form a single team shall be permitted subject to the following conditions:

1) Permission must be obtained from the league and section on an annual basis.

2) Section approval must be reported to the NYSPHSAA, Inc. Executive Committee.

Petitioners argue that I should vacate respondent's decision on the grounds that the students involved have formed close friendships and identities with the students enrolled in the school which they have been competing for during the past several years and they should be allowed to complete their high school athletic eligibility representing that school. Respondent argues that its determination was in accordance with established league rules and was a proper exercise of its discretion. Respondent also argues that this appeal, commenced on or about October 15, 1991, "is not timely to review the decision rendered by respondent on August 9, 1991 and communicated in writing to petitioners on or about August 14, 1991." Respondent argues that petitioners have set forth no reason to excuse their delay in commencing this appeal.

While I understand petitioners' concerns, I find on the record before me that respondent's decision was in keeping with its rules, and was proper exercise of its discretion. The students involved were permitted to compete on the wrestling program for a high school other than that which they attended solely because the high school attended did not have a sufficient number of students to have a complete wrestling program. Under the circumstances, a determination to permit them to compete for another high school was understandable. However, once the factual basis for the exception granted to the students no longer existed, it would be arbitrary for respondent to continue to permit the students to compete for a school in which they were not then enrolled. Additionally, I find that this appeal, which was commenced more than thirty days after the decision by NYSPHSAA was issued, is untimely within the meaning of the provisions of 8 NYCRR 275.16, and petitioners have supplied no reason for failing to submit the appeal in a timely manner. For both of these reasons, the appeal must be dismissed.