The high school basketball season has only been going on for a month (at most), and already one team has been forced to put a halt to its season. The girls basketball team at Hattiesburg (Miss.) High School was only three games into the season when the Mississippi HIgh School Activities Association ruled the team had to stop playing.
As the Hattiesburg American reported, the team had to cancel a game against Columbia (Miss.) High School, after Mississippi High School Activities Association ruled that Hattiesburg guard Tiaria Griffin should have been ineligible to play this season.
The MHSAA has consistently ruled Griffin ineligible, saying that she transferred from Lawrence County to Hattiesburg High because of athletic reasons and that a court injunction filed by Griffin's family on Sept. 30 expired after 10 days.
This isn't the first time a player has been ruled ineligible by an athletic association. It is, however, the first time an athletic association has stepped in and put a season on hold due to the eligibility issues surrounding one player.
As the Hattiesburg American reported, the MHSAA ruled Griffin had moved to Hattiesburg, from Lawrence County (Miss.) High, for athletic reasons. Because she had lived in the Hattiesburg district for less than 60 days, she was supposed to be ineligible to play for the team.
Griffin's family had filed a court injunction to allow Griffin to keep playing for Hattiesburg as the school district and the MHSAA tried to settle the issue, but the MHSAA believed the injunction had expired, which led to them meeting with Hattiesburg before the game and putting the season on hold. But that apparently wasn't the case.
However, Hattiesburg athletic director Cheyenne Trussell has produced a transcript of an Oct. 7 hearing in Forrest County Chancery Court that keeps the injunction in place until the U.S. District Court can hear and rule on the case.
Both sides believe they're in the right, but the fact remains that until things are cleared up, a basketball team won't be allowed back on the court. While the MHSAA doesn't have to prove anything at this point, Hattiesburg certainly has some explaining to do over some questionable moves that have taken place since Griffin transfered.
Despite how some may perceive the MHSAA's strong-arm tactics towards Hattiesburg, it would appear the athletic association has some legitimate questions about the move.
On the surface, it looks like Hattiesburg High may be guilty of "recruiting" Griffin. She played AAU ball in the Pine Belt with Burnell Wesco as her coach. Wesco also coaches in the HHS school system. And Griffin's mother, LaShannon Slay, is now employed by the Hattiesburg School District.
I can understand the MHSAA's stance on Griffin's eligibility, but until the courts rule on the matter, the season should continue for the rest of the players on the team. Forcing an entire group to suffer the consequences seems extremely unfair at this point.
- High School