Judge: Goose Creek can play Friday night, SCHSL will rehear case

BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCIV) - Goose Creek's victory in court Friday morning hinged on when a student becomes eligible to play sports and when a student is enrolled in high school.

For Goose Creek and John Doe, the moniker given to the student at the center of the disqualification argument and appeal, that time does not start if a student is enrolled in a group home, even if his placement in the group home is court-ordered.

Judge Roger Young ruled Friday afternoon that Goose Creek could play Friday night against Bluffton, but also put the decision of eligibility of John Doe back in the hands of the South Carolina High School League, telling the group to meet and make a decision by 5 p.m. Monday.

The school district announced Friday afternoon that the SCHSL had set its next hearing for Goose Creek at 2 p.m. Monday.

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Goose Creek officials and fans were excited Friday afternoon. Principal Jimmy Huskey said everyone can expect John Doe to be suited up and on the sidelines for Friday night's game.

John Doe, a foster child who has traveled to several schools across the state, joined the Goose Creek High School community this year after attending Berkeley High last year. When his transcripts were sent to Goose Creek, part of the paperwork lagged behind, according to school officials. That means what principal Jimmy Huskey saw was a student who started attending high school in 2010.

However, a week later, a transcript for John Doe arrived from Woodmont High School in the Upstate that showed he attended the school during the 2008-2009 school year.

In court on Friday, Goose Creek's legal team Chris McCool and Ken Harrell of the Joye Law Firm told the judge that John Doe never stepped foot on the campus of Woodmont and was never extended the privilege of playing sports because he was ordered to remain homebound and learn through course material dropped off for him.

WEB EXTRA: How each side argued their case

Bob Warner, the South Carolina High School League's attorney, argued that John Doe was incarcerated and ordered to the group home by the Department of Juvenile Justice. According to Warner, John Doe forfeited his right to play sports when he got in trouble and had to be confined to a Simpsonville group home.

For Goose Creek, the fight came down to whether a ruling by the SCHSL could supersede their interpretation of federal law that protects disabled students and gives them an opportunity to be involved in school sports.

For the high school league, their argument was based on how Goose Creek officials approached them. Warner said the school first approached them with a violation, not a request for extended eligibility under a hardship ruling. As a result, the executive commission based their disqualification ruling off the reported infraction.

Judge Roger Young, a North Charleston native, pushed the SCHSL and Warner for a definition of when eligibility for a student begins.

"There are two different ways to look at the same problem, so I'm just trying to flesh this out," Young said.

Warner told the judge that eligibility is not limited to the sport the student wants to play; it begins when the student enrolls in high school.

With a court victory in hand, the Goose Creek Gators have to turn their sights on Bluffton High School, who they play in a matter of hours. Head coach Chuck Reedy said immediate after the hearing he was only looking forward to Friday night's game -- Monday would come soon enough.

"Our kids should not be punished inappropriately," Goose Creek football coach Chuck Reedy, said. "We did nothing wrong, we self-reported, and we were penalized at an appeal hearing. We are going to play tonight with confidence that our student athletes deserve to be on that field."

And in Conway, a team's playoff hopes were dashed again.

But for at least a few hours, the community of Goose Creek can breathe a sigh of relief, knowing their Gators have lived to play another night under the lights.

Goose Creek plays Bluffton in Goose Creek at 7:30 p.m.