BATON ROUGE — The Tangipahoa Parish School Board has filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA), alleging that the association rushed to judgment when it suspended an entire high school football team from the playoffs.
Chris Moody, who is the school board attorney, filed the lawsuit on Dec. 2, in the 19th District Court in the East Baton Rouge Parish, asking the court to reverse the decision by the LHSAA to cancel Amite High School’s next playoff game.
“We hope the judge will reverse what the association has done and order them to have a more exhaustive hearing, and let the playoffs proceed,” Moody recently told the Louisiana Record.
The attorney believes the LSHAA rushed to judgment when it ruled on Nov. 30 and imposed a penalty before there was an adequate investigation.
“We support the association; we’re members of the association," he said. "We support enforcing the rules, and we do think players ought to be punished if they leave the sidelines to join a fight. We just think in this particular case this remedy was unduly harsh because it punished the entire team."
Amite’s suspension from the Class 3A football semifinals by the LHSAA stemmed from a brawl that broke out toward the end of a state quarterfinal football game between Amite High School and Bogalusa High School on Nov. 27. Amite, which was already winning substantially, had just scored another touchdown when a fight broke out on the field, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that while Amite’s offensive team players and nine special teams players were on the field, players from the Bogalusa High School football team along with some Bogalusa fans “stormed the field” and began attacking the Amite players on the field.
Moody said the referees’ account was that Bogalusa players were upset; and when Amite scored another touchdown, they felt they were “running up the score.” The first penalty was called against action taken by a Bogalusa player, he said.
It was not clear how many people were involved in the fight because there are various reports, and the game video footage isn’t clear because both teams’ cameras cut off after each play.
“Well, they’re claiming that the entire team left the sidelines to join the fight," Moody said. "So what we pled to the executive committee that heard the appeal today, was that half our team was already on the field. They had just scored a touchdown. And the extra point team was running onto the field. So none of those players were on the field to join a fight."
Moody said that he had been told that a penalty hadn’t been decided for Bogalusa yet and that they would be going through a full sportsmanship hearing sometime in the future, which will be a more exhaustive hearing.
“We think that’s what they need to let Amite do,” the attorney said. “Why go to the nuclear option of pulling them out of the playoffs instead of doing a thorough investigation and then making a determination on what players should be excluded?”
Moody said that the Amite team is devastated by the ruling of the LHSAA because it has destroyed “the goal they worked for all year long and all summer long.”
Amite High School has graduated some distinguished people including recent Louisiana Governor-elect John Bel Edwards, who was a quarterback on this same football team.