Goose Creek player denied, but big changes could loom for S.C. High School League

Goose Creek takes the field Friday, Nov. 2, 2012 at Goose Creek High School in Goose Creek. Paul Zoeller/Special to the Post and Courier

A federal judge declined to issue an emergency injunction Wednesday for the Goose Creek football player at the center of the school’s battle with the S.C. High School League.

But after the ruling denied the Gators what seems to be their last chance at defending their state championship, two state senators said the SCHSL could be in for big changes.

“There will be a bill pre-filed to revoke the charter of the High School League,” state Sen. Larry Grooms said outside the federal courthouse in Charleston.

“The High School League has made a huge mistake,” said state Sen. Paul Campbell.

A complaint was filed iwn federal A A complaint was filed in federal court Wednesday morning on behalf of Goose Creek player Justice Romello Rogers, the athlete at the center of the controversy that’s raged for almost two weeks.

The lawsuit sought an emergency injunction declaring Rogers eligible to play under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prevents public agencies from discriminating against people with disabilities.

Rogers is a special needs student with a learning disability, according to the complaint. The SCHSL has twice ruled that Rogers is ineligible because he’s in his fifth year of high school, disqualifying the 13-0 Gators from the playoffs.

But U.S. District Judge Court C. Weston Houck did not even hear the complaint, declining to issue the injunction because Rogers’ attorney, Jason Moss, failed to have papers served to the High School League.

Moss said he’d faxed the complaint to High School League lawyers, but admitted SCHSL officials had not been served.

However, Houck also indicated that the complaint might not have succeeded on the merits, citing a Michigan case in which that state’s “eight-semester rule” for eligibility was found “to apply to all students and not be discriminatory.”

Neither Rogers, who according to the complaint played in five games for 17 plays, nor Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy would comment after the latest setback for the Gators,

“He’s very, very upset,” attorney Moss said of Rogers, 18, who still hopes to play basketball for Goose Creek.

“There’s really nothing you can say,” said Reedy.

The two state senators in attendance had plenty to say.

“This whole system attacks the kids that we are trying to help,” said Campbell, R-Goose Creek. “The coaches are trying to do their jobs, the administrators are trying to do their jobs, and the High School League is going against them and the kids.”

Grooms, R-Bonneau, said a bill to revoke the High School League’s charter would force changes.

“After the bill is drafted, we will have hearings,” Grooms said. “And we’ll find out what the High School League would like to do to correct the problem rather than have their charter revoked. If their charter is revoked, a system will be in place.

“But I would hope we don’t have to go that far. I would hope the High School League would institute rules that allow due process, fair hearings and allow an opportunity for a team like Goose Creek, that’s done nothing wrong, to play for a state title.”

High School League commisioner Jerome Singleton could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, Goose Creek players went to a local Ronald McDonald House to help prepare a Thanksgiving meal. The team the Gators beat last week, Bluffton, prepared for its playoff game at Northwestern on Friday.

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