Oklahoma judge grills district over bringing football dispute to court

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2014 6:47 PM

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - An Oklahoma district judge quizzed school district lawyers on Wednesday over why they asked the court to decide the outcome of a disputed high school football playoff game, saying he will soon decide if a judicial remedy is in order.

Oklahoma District Judge Bernard Jones said he would postpone making any decision until Thursday, after he questioned the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association and Oklahoma City Public Schools for hours on Wednesday.

"No matter what I decide, there will be no winners in this case," said Jones, adding he would proceed with caution because new precedents could be set.

On Nov. 28, Locust Grove High School scored a 20-19 quarter-final victory over Oklahoma City's Frederick Douglass High School in a game where a late-minute referees' decision, seen as a blunder by many, overturned what would have been a go-ahead touchdown in the final 64 seconds.

A referee threw a flag for a sideline violation on Douglass when it scored a touchdown on a fourth down play that would have given them the lead.

While many see the flag as questionable, there is criticism that the referees' decision to take the touchdown off the board was outright wrong, and a yardage penalty should have been enforced on the point after or the kickoff.

The Oklahoma City Public School District has asked the court to rule if the game, or the part of the game after the disputed touchdown, should be replayed.

A temporary restraining order has been issued from the Oklahoma District Courts to prohibit Locust Grove from playing a semifinal playoff game until the issue is resolved.

The controversy has also garnered national attention, with many wondering about the wisdom of turning to the legal system to decide the results of a game between schools.

"If you need the courts to straighten out your high school football playoffs, you have lost control of your high school football playoffs," ESPN sports commentator Keith Olbermann said on his Wednesday show.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)