State Senator Chris Elliott promises legislation following Spanish Fort football controversy
Alabama State Senator Chris Elliott has pledged to draft a bill in response to the controversy surrounding the Spanish soccer team Fort Girls.
The Toros were pulled from the Class 6A playoffs after reporting an eligibility issue last week.
Baldwin County Superintendent Eddie Tyler filed a desperation appeal to the First District Council on Thursday, hoping the decision would be overturned and the Toros would be allowed to compete.
However, the Commission dismissed the appeal and the Class 6A playoffs were held on Friday night without Spanish Fort. The boys also reported an eligibility issue and were also dropped from the playoffs.
Elliott (R-Daphne) posted this message on social media on Saturday.
“AHSAA is back, and I’ve heard from many of you. It is high time to pass a permanent legislative resolution on these seemingly annual miscarriages imposed on our student-athletes, and I am in the process of drafting this bill.
His Facebook post also included a letter from the parents of the students involved in the boys’ and girls’ affairs. A lawsuit filed by Mobile attorney David Allen last week said Anthony DeFelippo’s move to Spanish Fort midterm was a key part of the eligibility issue. Her sisters played for the women’s team.
Here is the letter from the DeFelippos:
“On behalf of our daughters, we would like to thank the coaches, administration, Baldwin County School Board, and community members at Spanish Fort High School who have supported our student-athletes as we navigate this suppression. unprecedented and undeserved Spanish Fort Girls Varsity Soccer. Alabama High School Athletic Association State Tournament Team. AHSAA, a purported nonprofit and not affiliated with the state, states in its mission statement that it:
“To serve member schools through interscholastic competitions by enhancing student learning, sportsmanship, safety and lifelong values. With integrity as the foundation…’
There is no integrity in the actions of AHSAA. Here, what AHSAA did was target the SFHS women’s team in retaliation for the lawsuit filed on behalf of the brother of two of our players. The alleged investigation only began after AHSAA was served with the lawsuit and demanded that SFHS report any alleged violations found in this family’s records under threat of sanctions.
“The ‘violation’ that AHSAA says merits the team’s removal from the playoffs and continued punishment against the student-athletes involved – their belief that checking a box that all members of the Immediate family moved home was “invalid” because those athletes’ brother, who resided in Colorado for more than two years, did not move with the rest of the family from Pennsylvania.
“The rules propagated by AHSAA serve not as a shield to protect student-athletes, but as a sword to support AHSAA’s ‘interpretation’ of the rules they themselves create. The allegedly violated rule at issue does not ask whether “all immediate family members” have moved, but rather whether all “primary family members reside in the new place of residence.”
“With all the growth in Baldwin County, the idea that one of our schools could be found in violation of this rule if one of the siblings chooses not to move in with their family – say finish their last year of high school while living with another parent—that all remaining student-athletes in that family are automatically ineligible—does not enhance a student’s learning or lifelong values. There is no integrity there.
“Furthermore, it is egregious and a miscarriage of justice that when SFHS asked why AHSAA would choose to interpret its rules in this manner, given that the rules do not expressly state an intent to treat this situation as a violation , they chose to SFHS and BCBE took a tough line saying that “the system would be subject to significant fines if [it] refuse to comply with their decisions. It is who we allow to govern our student-athletes. A system designed to intimidate and deny any right to due process. The team supports and supports these student-athletes and their families, who have been unfairly treated by AHSAA.
AHSAA rules are developed by member schools. AHSAA staff and the Central Board of Control are responsible for enforcing these rules.
After the Baldwin County Judge issued a stay Tuesday in the boys’ case that would have allowed the team to compete this weekend, Tyler sent a letter to AHSAA Executive Director Alvin Briggs, stating that Spanish Fort would honor AHSAA’s decision and not play.
The situation for the girls developed later in the week.
Neither AHSAA nor Spanish Fort officials have commented on the week-long issue.
A hearing on the DeFelippo case is currently set for May 4, but with the first round of the 6A playoffs already over, that may not happen. Spanish Fort High School itself was not part of the lawsuit, which did not seek monetary damages.