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Published: Wednesday, 10/12/2011

OHSAA to court: Rule on transfer

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Whitmer High School player Leroy Alexander, 39, covers Start High School player Tyrell Jones, 23, during the third quarter at Whitmer High School. Whitmer High School player Leroy Alexander, 39, covers Start High School player Tyrell Jones, 23, during the third quarter at Whitmer High School.
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The Ohio High School Athletic Association, the governing body that oversees state high school athletics, submitted a motion requesting that an appeals court render a ruling on Whitmer transfer LeRoy Alexander's eligibility. OHSAA hopes to expedite the case and forgo a hearing scheduled for Nov. 16 where Alexander hopes to obtain a permanent injunction.

In related news, an association spokesman told The Blade that its investigation into Whitmer's football program is expected to end this week. Within the next couple of weeks, OHSAA will summon Washington Local Schools officials to its headquarters in Columbus to get their side of the story. The investigation, which began six weeks ago, targets six players who have transferred to Whitmer since last school year.

In addition to his football talent, Alexander, an All-Northern Lakes League basketball player at Springfield, wants to obtain a permanent injunction to be allowed to participate in the winter sport. He obtained the temporary injunction only after the association ruled him ineligible in the spring, citing a falsified transfer affidavit submitted by Alexander's mother, Teresa Alexander. OHSAA upheld its decision, by an 8-0 vote, when Alexander filed an appeal in June.

In submitting a motion of appeal last week, OHSAA-appointed lawyer Martin Mohler argues that Alexander would not have managed to obtain a temporary injunction had Common Pleas Judge Frederick H. McDonald not called for a de novo hearing -- meaning starting over from scratch -- which disallowed the use of any evidence produced earlier in the case. Mohler states that McDonald's decision to declare the hearing de novo minutes before the hearing was to begin prejudiced OHSAA because it was unable to call witnesses to testify. In giving Alexander temporary eligibility in September, McDonald ruled that the association's earlier decision to make Alexander ineligible was based on hearsay evidence suggesting Alexander had not made a bona fide move to the Washington Local district.

Alexander's attorney, Terry Lodge, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Mohler argues that by waiting until Nov. 16 to make a decision, the court is being unfair to teams whose postseason chances are affected by Alexander's participation in games. Alexander has taken a significant role on defense and on offense, and totaled 169 rushing yards and a 69-yard touchdown run in Friday's 49-23 win at previously unbeaten Findlay. If the case is not expedited, the court won't determine Alexander's eligibility until the Wednesday between the second and third weeks of the playoffs.

Ranked No. 4 in last week's Division I state poll, Whitmer is 7-0 overall and 4-0 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference entering Friday's home game against Fremont Ross.

When reached by phone last week, OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried indicated people have contacted OHSAA with concerns about the eligibility of other Whitmer players. At a press conference last month to address the investigation, Washington Local Superintendent Patrick Hickey insisted all Washington Local students -- not just football players -- live within the district's boundaries.

"Like a lot of people, we receive rumors and tips on items like that, and that is, among many other things, what our investigators there are looking into," Stried said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com, 419-724-6160, or on Twitter @RyanAutullo



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