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Court denies TSSAA appeal in BA case

The epic legal battle between Brentwood Academy and the Tennessee Secondary Schools Athletic Association could be coming to a screeching halt after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently denied the TSSAA’s request to rehear its appeal in the case
“We are looking forward to having this issue resolved,” BA Headmaster Curt Masters said of the suit, which centers on the alleged recruitment of athletes by BA in the mid-1990s, and has been drawn out over most of the last decade.

In the case, both sides have tried to prove whether actions taken during the incident were appropriate. The 6th Circuit ruled last year the TSSAA violated BA’s First Amendment rights by punishing the school after it sent letters to students about spring football camp, even though those who received the letters already had signed enrollment contracts with the school.

BA was placed on probation and disqualified from postseason participation as punishment for violating the organization’s recruiting rule, which states, “The use of undue influence on a student (with or without an athletic record), the parents or guardians of a student by any person connected, or not connected, with the school to secure or to retain a student for athletic purposes shall be a violation of the recruiting rule.”

“The way (the recruiting rule) was applied to us was unconstitutionally restrictive in the way we were allowed to talk to students,” Masters said. “In the summary judgment in 1998, it was ruled what we did was not inappropriate conduct and what the TSSAA did was illegal. Since then we’ve been duking it out to see what was appropriate and what was not.”

The TSSAA, the governing body for high school athletics in Tennessee, requested in April to have the case reheard by the 6th Circuit, but the court said it would not. That leaves the organization only the option of appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, which it has just over two months to do, according to TSSAA Executive Director Ronnie Carter.

“We are aware of the decision, and obviously we are disappointed,” Carter said. “We have been in discussions with our attorneys, and we have until Sept. 25 to decide whether we want to file an appeal with the Supreme Court. That’s certainly an option we’ll be considering.”

The school filed suit in 1997, stating TSSAA had violated its free speech rights to communicate with prospective students. The case reached the Supreme Court once before, in 2001, where the nation’s highest court reversed a previous decision that had been in TSSAA’s favor.

Posted on: 7/6/2006


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