Taylorsville senior Jared Tupaii will have to wait just a little longer to find out whether he's eligible to play football this year.
After listening to arguments for and against a temporary restraining order, Third District Judge Stephen Henroid took the issue under advisement. He did mention he would try to make the decision as soon as possible as he understood the time crunch including the fact that there are just three remaining region games.
"I don't regret (transferring from Murray to Taylorsville) at all," said Tupaii, who appeared in court Monday morning with both his parents and several members of the Warriors' football team. "It just hurts not to play."
Tupaii said he decided to transfer from Murray to Taylorsville during the summer as he attended a summer school class. He was taking the extra course to improve his grades to a 2.0 GPA, which is required to play high school sports.
Tupaii said transferring to Taylorsville has been better for him socially and academically, despite being ineligible to play football for the Warriors. He currently maintains a 3.2 GPA.
"My grades are better, and I like the environment better," he said. "It's my senior year, and I do want to play."
Tupaii's attorney Mark Ethington asked the court to intervene because there is no other governmental agency to which student athletes can appeal. He said because the Utah High School Activities Agency doesn't answer to any other state agency, only the courts can hold them accountable for their decisions.
"There really is no other authority or agency to do so," said Ethington. "There is no direct oversight (by the state school board)."
Ethington also said Tupaii would be irreparably harmed without the TRO because he's been told by college recruiters that he needs to play football his senior season in order to secure a scholarship. Henroid took some issue with that assertion, or the notion that a student whose commutative GPA is barely above 2.0 could earn a college scholarship.
Tupaii said he's been advised by a local college coach to try and walk on at a school like Snow, which is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation among junior college programs, if he is unable to play and secure a scholarship.
Ethington also argued that Tupaii's due process rights were violated because he wasn't advised that he could have an attorney at his original hearing and that no written decision was ever issued, and that made appealing the decision problematic.
UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner argued that the decision wasn't based on fraud, nor was it arbitrary and capricious, and therefore could not be overturned by the court. He also said students are allowed to bring attorneys, or anyone else they want to a hearing, but the association doesn't tell them how to approach the appeal process, which is not a judicial proceeding.
"We don't read the students their Miranda rights," Van Wagoner said. "(Tupaii) wants the court to hear the evidence and make a different finding of fact ... He wants the court to substitute its judgement for that of the three-person original hearing panel and the three-person appeal panel."
He also argued that athletic participation is a privilege, not a right.
"The expectancy to play college football on scholarship is not a recognizable constitutional right," Van Wagoner said. He said the UHSAA makes decisions based on their rules consistently and clearly.
"We are not unrestrained," he said.
Tupaii said he's been attending practices, although he hasn't been participating."I just go and watch and support the team," he said. "I've been involved in football all my life. I can't just not go."
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