Hoops And Governing Bodies Have No Business In Courts

By Gregory Moore
Updated: January 30, 2007

SAN ANTONIO — Maybe it is a blessing that North College Hill High School in Cincinnati has gotten rid of the traveling circus known as O.J. Mayo.

But it seems that Huntington (West Virginia) High School now has the circus and Mayo has dragged the school s boys’ varsity basketball program into the court.

Here s a quick synopsis of what happened. According to reports, Mayo was ejected from a game in which he also bumped an official at the scorer’s table.

The West Virginia Secondary School Activity Commission (WVSSAC) had ruled that Mayo and five teammates would be suspended for two games according to their guidelines.

Note: For reference and to read the complete story, go to this weblink: http://www.herald-dispatch.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070130/SPORTS02/701300302/1001/NEWS10) Should be a simple matter right? Player is ejected, bumps official and governing body for high school sports administers punishment for the bad deed. Well that is not what has happened.

Earlier this week, Mayo and his lawyer (who is also an assistant coach for Mayo s team) got a temporary injunction against the commission that barred them from enforcing a rule that has been in effect long before Mayo got there and the judge has reinstated Mayo and his teammates.

Are you kidding me? A circuit judge wasted West Virginia tax money on whether a kid can play basketball in high school? Welcome to the world of big time high school sports and the power superstar players can yield in the right circumstances.

What we are all witnessing at this time is a system that is very broken and very much not on par with what should be a dictatorship in favor of the governing body.

There are some major issues with this whole situation as it has unfolded in front of me. First of all, what is a lawyer doing coaching a boy s varsity high school basketball game with a potentially NBA draft pick on the roster?

Mayo is on record of saying he is headed to the pros and if Michael Woelfel, the assistant coach who just happens to be a practicing attorney, decides to be his confidant, then the NCAA needs to look at that as a perceived violation of their own guidelines.

But what s worse is the fact that it seems that in the state of West Virginia, to become a head coach you simply need to have a high school diploma and be under a contract with a school. That s scary and opens the door to the very problem that is being discussed right now.

In many instances, most states governing bodies for extracurricular activities have provisions to where a lawyer (i.e. potential sports agent) or anyone in a professional position of representation would be coaching a group of young men or women.

The mere presence of a lawyer on the sidelines should be a major reason why the Highlanders are ineligible to play in future games in their own state and outside of their state.

More importantly, with Woelfel on the bench with Mayo, you now have the impropriety of a coach using his other professional duties for all of the wrong reasons.

Ask yourself this one question: why would an assistant coach, who is also a lawyer, represent his own basketball team? Because there is something in it for him. The school didn t hire a lawyer.

The school district didn t hire a lawyer. Woelfel did this on his own and it wasn t for the five other players who were suspended but for Mayo himself.

And thus this is the very reason why Mayo s circus act may cost the Highlanders something down the road. The state of West Virginia is on a slippery slope and they are partially the blame.

This situation is set up for a major calamity. No court judge should be involved in how an athletic association admonishes a player for breaking one of its bylaws during a contest.

How this circuit judge can look himself in the mirror and say I made the right call is beyond me. However what is truly puzzling is why the WVSSAC does not put into action a referendum that removes the easy provisions that allowed Mr. Woelfel to be an assistant coach.

This man s presence on the sidelines automatically will have the Highlanders in court more times than they will be on the basketball floor.

There are clear and present dangers of this story. A varsity basketball team has no business being in a court battle with the state s athletic governing body for school.

The principal of Huntington High School should remove Mr. Woelfel from the team so that there no perceived conflicts of interest. And yes, it is time for the NCAA to actively watch the interactions of Mayo and Mr. Woelfel so that it can determine if Mayo will actually be a certified amateur athlete under the provisions of the NCAA s guidelines for student athletes.

Varsity sports, governing bodies and the legal system should not be co-mingling like this story with Mayo and his assistant coach but they are becoming very frequent in society. Innocence in these sports is replaced by greed and this story reeks of it.