A bill forcing the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to use 3rd-party arbitration to hear player eligibility issues is closer to final legislative passage. The LHSAA is prohibiting an Episcopal student from playing football this fall because he's too old. Athletic Dir. Myra Mansur feels a non-partisan arbitrator should hear his case.
"We're asking that you guys would help with some form of discretion in this very extenuating circumstance for this young man," said Mansur. "This is not the norm. This is not a precedent. This is not about football."
Mansur says 19-year-old Clement Mubungirwa (moo-bug-gear-uh) should be able to play his senior year. She says he was forced to hide from Rwandan rebels in Uganda then arrived in the United States in 2007 and was placed in the 7th grade even though he was at about a second grade learning level.
She says he caught up in just 2 and a half years.
"We're asking that he be allowed to play his senior year. This Senate Bill is trying to give families like Clement's and schools like Episcopal an opportunity to be heard by an un-biased third party," said Mansur.
The LHSAA rule states that if you turn 19 before September 1st, you can not play varsity sports the following school year. Executive Director Kenny Henderson said to the House committee that Clement is not the first kid who's had a tough life and was not allowed to play under this rule.
He says rules are rules.
"Allowing a student to play against the rules is in total opposition to what sports is all about," said Henderson. "Every sport is a game of rules and every sport is about everyone learning to play within the rules that have been adopted for that game."
Mansur says this case is about compassion and the appeals process currently in place by the LHSAA is not fair. But Henderson also says if Clement is allowed to play, it won't be fair to the thousands of other student athletes in this state.
"Think about the other student at Episcopal that has followed all the rules and will finally get his long awaited spot in the starting lineup for football," Henderson said. "Only to have it dashed by the student who does not meet the rule because of the passage of 633."
The Senate approved legislation now heads to the full House for further consideration.