Marlboro County and Northwestern to be heard again

Regardless of the court ruling today, Marlboro County and Northwestern are still facing an uphill battle in their fight against the SCHSL.

The ruling from the court in Beaufort today certainly surprised many people but it appears that it did not catch the SCHSL off guard.


The court ruling today has already been criticized in judicial circles around the state. Many lawyers have been quoted in the press are saying the decision has no basis in actual judicial law. The decision has been criticized by many of the top legal minds in the state.


The ruling by the judge made two declarations. First it allowed Marlboro County and Northwestern back into the playoffs and second is forbid the SCHSL from taken further action to impede the inclusion of these teams in the playoffs. As anyone who has ever followed a court case knows, a case can be appealed to a higher court in the event that the party believes the court ruled or acted unfairly. Why the judge declared that the case may not be appealed is a mystery and obviously incorrect.


Events that unfolded after the ruling are equally interesting.


Within minutes of the rulings, the HSL announced that a new hearing would be held beginning at 10:00 on Thursday morning. Marlboro County will present first to the executive committee at 10 followed by Northwestern at 11.


In a statement to reporters following the ruling, league attorney Betty Laffitte made the following statements:

"We interpret the courts orders to say that the league should have posted the notice in a public place, should have notified the public that the meetings would be held, provide an agenda as to what was occurring and give the public an opportunity to be there for the vote."

"I can announce at this
time that the South Carolina High School League will have a vote on the appeal involving Marlboro High School at 10 o'clock Thursday at league headquarters. This will be open to the public. At that time, any material witnesses or any documents or evidence that either Marlboro or Northwestern wants to present will be heard by the executive committee. They will be given as much time as they want to present their appeal."


By this statement it basically means that HSL will hold a second hearing to allow the teams to represent their case in an open forum. The entire hearing will be open to the public and press and both teams will be able to present as long as needed. Following the teams presentations, the executive committee will vote publicly and the HSL will announce and post the decision.


It is also safe to assume that neither team will be back in the playoffs following the meeting on Thursday. 11 days ago the committee voted to keep out both teams and nothing has changed that would allow either team to be back into the playoffs. In fact it can be argued that the resolve of the HSL and the executive committee has been entrenched considerably as a result of Marlboro's and Northwestern's action of the past few days.


There is significant evidence that many other high schools in the state were highly agitated at the action of the two schools. Many principals, athletic directors and coaches have vocally criticized in the press the actions of both schools for what one coach called; "regrettable and selfish actions designed to hurt the spirit and competition of high school football."


In a related story, word reached South Carolina Pigskin Prep, that the Class 4A football coaches around the state will met via teleconference on Thursday and vote that if Northwestern and Marlboro County are allowed back into the playoffs then the other 46 schools would forfeit out the playoffs and not participate in 2002 playoffs. SCPP confirmed this information from three different source this evening that if the 2 schools are allowed back into the playoffs, the remaining Class 4A schools would not participate in the playoffs as a sign of support for the SCHSL and to show the 2 offending schools that their actions were repulsive to the remaining rule abiding members of the high school league.


In an interview this evening with SCPP, one school official from a 4A school state" I am not sure what they hoped to accomplish today. They had to know how the other members were going to react. If they win on Thursday it is a sure bet that none of the other schools in the state will participate. They had to know this."

He continued by stating "The long term damage to these two schools is going to be significant. The rest of the state team's will avoid both schools in scheduling and other dealings. I can guarantee you that we will not participate in any event with either school unless forced to by playoffs. They really have no idea what life after this is going to be like. I would not want to be a coach at these schools at any level."


It is obvious from remarks and the actions taken by the 4A high school coaches that the other schools are very discouraged by the selfish actions taken by these two schools. It is also evident that both schools will pay a huge price for these actions for years to come and that both schools have lost the admiration of their fellow schools. As one person stated: "payback's a __________"


As we move forward toward this weekends game. SCPP has learned that the HSL plans now to carry on with the scheduled games of this weekend. Most coaches around the state will continue to prepare for the games going under the assumption that neither Marlboro nor Northwestern will be allowed back into the playoffs. Most observers believe that the HSL Executive Committee will rule exactly as they did On November 4th.


Under that assumption the game would commence on Friday night as planned and the Weekend of Champions would go off as planned on Friday and Saturday December 6-7, 2002.


We have also received word that following the hearing on Thursday, Marlboro County will agree to abide by any decision rendered by the board. Sources from Marlboro belief that the district will not take the case back to court. However it must be noted that this is not from official sources as no one from Marlboro was willing to speak with us on or off the record.


What Northwestern is willing or able to do is another story. The school district has not been involved in any action as of yet and they may willing to explore the legal option if Thursday's hearings do not go as they desire.


It is also worth noting that as early as last Friday that SCPP reported that we had received word that the 2002 Class 4A playoffs could be in jeopardy based on the actions of Marlboro and Northwestern.  I was blasted on the boards and by one coach on a state wide radio show that stated this would never happen. It now appears that the information that we received and reported last week was 100% accurate and the unfortunate result is that the playoffs are now in peril.


In the end it is our opinion that the HSL will hold a fair and open hearing on Thursday and that both teams will present their case. We also believe that the league will uphold the original probation and that neither team will be allowed back into the playoffs. The playoffs then will proceed as scheduled this Friday.


Our hope is faced with overwhelming public support against them by the state HSL, the state coaches association, the state press, and the state fan base, that the leadership of both schools will accept the ruling on Thursday and allow the playoffs to progress. We truly believe that the best course for all concerned is for the 2 schools to look at the greater good and accept the SCHSL ruling and move forward from there.


Northwestern and Marlboro could earn a little of their now totally lost respect back if they were to take the higher ground and act like adults and accept the ruling of the HSL and move forward rather than continue this childish legal maneuvering that will never erase this fact: they are guilty of the crime as charged and should pay the price.



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