Florida Judge Allows Foreign-Born Player, Team to Compete in Playoffs

Phil Gast and Anna Rhett Miller, CNN, February 9, 2011

A Florida judge’s ruling Wednesday will allow a foreign-born high school basketball player who was ruled ineligible and his team to compete in the playoffs, even though they could ultimately be stripped of any title they win.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Spencer Eig temporarily barred the Florida High School Athletic Association from disqualifying Brian Delancy, who was born in the Bahamas, and Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School from the district playoffs, which begin Thursday.

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The board of the athletic association, which said Krop did not file proper paperwork on Delancy’s eligibility and immigration status, on Tuesday ruled he was ineligible and that the top-ranked team must forfeit the 19 games it won when the senior guard played.

Eig did not rule on Delancy’s eligibility, but granted a temporary injunction to allow Krop to play until a full slate of hearings and appeals can take place within the athletic association,

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Now that Krop is in the playoffs, North Miami High School will be bumped from the four-team field in the district playoffs, Dearing [Roger Dearing, the association’s executive director] said.

“There is no win for kids here,” said Dearing. “What about the schools that played fair?”

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Federal law prohibits school districts from asking about a student’s immigration status. The Florida athletic association does require information on players’ eligibility and residency.

The association keeps such records so that “there is a fair and equitable playing field for all student athletes” and to discourage recruiting, association spokesman Seth Polansky said Tuesday. Where athletes come from “is not an issue,” he said. “It is the paperwork.”

“Playing athletics is a privilege and not a right,” said Polansky, adding that it is up to schools to police themselves on student eligibility.

Baron said Delancy first attended a private school, which required an I-20 form. An I-20 is a student visa that gives international students permission to attend school. But Delancy or Krop were not required to provide such a form when he transferred to Krop, a public school, Baron said Tuesday.

Dearing said public schools must have such student visa forms and that Delancy’s form had expired.

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The emergency petition that was taken before Eig argued the athletic association never set a hearing or requested information from Delancy before making a “unilateral” determination on his eligibility.

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Baron said he knows that Krop could win it all and then lose the crown if the athletic association ultimately decides Delancy was ineligible and the wins should be forfeited.

“These kids are only concerned about playing for the championship,” he said.

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