A Michigan community is up in arms because of its state association's refusal to bend age eligibility rules for a teenage athlete who competes with Down Syndrome.
As first reported by UpperMichigansSource.com, Eric Dompierre will not be allowed to compete during his senior year of high school at Ishpeming (Mich.) High because he is already 19 years old. That's a year beyond the Michigan High School Athletic Association's allowable age, leaving Dompierre with little if any leeway to gain more eligibility.
Needless to say, a future without basketball is a troubling thought for Dompierre, who clearly takes and receives much from being a part of the Ishpeming program.
"I'd be sad if I couldn't play with them and not have them in my life. They want me to play, and I want to play with them," Dompierre told UpperMichigansSource.
The high school junior's father was much more direct with his analysis of just how much the decision to rule his son ineligible for a final season would affect the teenager's life.
"He gets a lot of his confidence from the fact that he gets in the games, and he has a lot of support, not only from people here in Ishpeming, but people from all over the area are supportive of him. If he's told that he's not allowed to play anymore, I think he's going to lose a lot of that confidence. And that's been a key to his development," said Eric's dad, Dean Dompierre.
While two efforts have already been made to force the MHSAA's hand into adjusting its eligibility rules, so far those attempts have fallen on deaf ears. After both proposals, the state governing body announced that "thorough reviews" determined that no rule should be changed, despite the fact that 23 other states have age regulation addendums which allow disabled students to continue competing after others their age would be forced to stop.
If the MHSAA continues to reject Dompierre's pleas to continue, it will do so over the objections of numerous Michigan natives and others who have flocked to a Change.org petition to support the teen. The online movement had garnered nearly 3,500 signatures as of Sunday night with an eye on gaining many more in the coming days.