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Judge Rules Two Girls Ineligible to Play in State Tournament

Judge Rules Two Girls Ineligible to Play in State Tournament



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Sam Penrod Reporting A fight over high school sports went from the basketball court to a courtroom. The issue is over two girls who transferred to a new private school, the American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork. But did they go there for academics or athletics?

The judge sided with the Utah High School Activities Association when he ruled today that the two girls can't play in this week's state tournament. But this may be just the beginning of a showdown over athletics between private and public schools.

This is the new American Leadership Academy in Spanish Fork. It's the first year the private charter school has been in operation.

But allegations surfaced that Brittni Harvey and Lindsay Baxter, who are seniors, were recruited by former Mountain View coach Dave Houle to transfer to the school, primarily to play sports. From that, the Utah High School Activities Association ruled the girls were ineligible to participate in sports.

The girls' parents disagree and are now fighting that decision in court.

Judge Rules Two Girls Ineligible to Play in State Tournament

It's the latest case getting attention right now in high school athletics involving a private school.

Jerry Bovee, Assistant Director, Utah High School Activities Association: "We scrutinize every transfer, without a move, but to a private school, where they don't have boundaries, there's not a move associated, so it gets a little more difficult."

It's becoming a bigger issue, because many public schools believe private schools have more resources and money to pump into athletic programs, which gives them an advantage on the field. But the Association believes grouping all of the private schools into their own classification isn't the answer, either.

Jerry Bovee, Assistant Director, Utah High School Activities Association: "We have 1A schools, 2A schools, 3A schools that are private schools and charter schools, and to put them in one classification creates some other problems."

The Activities Association says its overall emphasis is on academics, not athletics, and it is trying to find a way to create a system so public and private schools can compete in an environment that is fair.

Jerry Bovee, Assistant Director, Utah High School Activities Association: "We need to look at all aspects of the issue, and ultimately it's our job to provide a level playing field so it's fair for everyone who wants to play."

While the two girls won't be playing state basketball, this eligibility fight will continue in court. The two girls also want to participate in track and field this spring. Last year one of them was state champion in 5A.

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