MIDVALE — Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata will not play football at Jordan High this season.
The California native lost his fourth bid to play sports for the Beetdiggers after a re-opening of his appeal hearing in front of a panel representing the Utah High School Activities Association.
He still has a pending lawsuit against the UHSAA for denying him eligibility, which his lawyer has said he will pursue regardless of whether he plays sports or not.
Tuesday's hearing was actually a re-opening of the original appeal hearing as all decisions made by an appeal panel are final, according to the UHSAA bylaws. The panel is allowed to re-open a hearing, but it's usually only if there is alleged fraud or other problems with the information on which the decision was based. In this case, they opted to do it because they were told the student athletes wished to present information and evidence that wasn't available at the first hearing.
On Tuesday, Fa'agata's attorney, Laura Lui, asked the panel to consider his move to Utah a full family move as his mother has now relocated to Utah, which she stated in the original application was her intention to do so.
The panel didn't find that his mother moving to Utah constituted a full family move for several reasons, including the fact that she moved to Utah several months after her son did, she left most of what she owns in California and she sublet the house she rented to her parents.
"The move was not the precipitating event that caused him to transfer," said UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner. "In this case, there was no full family move. He moved; and then she moved. There was no point at which he was required to transfer because of a family move."
Lui said the boys were disappointed but eager for their day in court.
"We think this shows the arbitrary nature of these decisions," said Lui. "Especially since the judge in this case ruled that the moves were bonafide."
The full family move is actually a section of the UHSAA's hardship rule. It has come to be seen as a way to gain automatic eligibility, a perception Jordan principal Tom Sherwood expressed in the hearing.
"Full family moves have been the Holy Grail of eligibility," Sherwood said. "In general, that's the understanding people have, and that's the understanding that I have. This family has gone through tremendous measures to move and live a life, and play where they live."
Fa'agata's mother, Lisa Fa'agata, said she didn't move to Utah in May when her son did because she wanted to save money and look for a job. She came to Utah for a court hearing in which Lui asked for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would allow Fa'agata and his cousin, Cliff Betson, who was also ruled ineligible at that original appeal hearing, to play football. A Third District Judge denied that request and a trial was set for Nov. 30 in the case, about two weeks after the conclusion of the football season.
Lisa Fa'agata decided to move at that time signing a lease on an apartment and buying household items. She said she was still looking for a job and reiterated that she sent her son to Utah because it is safer than their California neighborhood.
Betson attended the hearing but did not have an issue before the panel. A court recorder attended and Van Wagoner will issue a written explanation of the decision because of the litigation in the case.
The teens were originally denied a hardship and denied eligibility because someone other than the two boys had forged the signatures of the principals from the schools where they transferred from in May. The parents of both boys gave custody to a relative who lives in the Jordan High boundaries. Her husband, Stuart Tua, submitted the paperwork and was asked if he forged the signatures, but he refused to answer citing his fifth-amendment right not to incriminate himself.
Fa'agata also plays volleyball, which is a club sport in Utah, and was offered a scholarship to Utah State after attending a camp in Utah this summer.
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