DETROIT (AP) — A 19-year-old student with Down syndrome on Thursday won the right to play football and basketball his senior year, two months after the council that governs high school sports in Michigan agreed to allow some flexibility in an age-limit rule that for years had been absolute.
The decision by the Michigan High School Athletic Association's executive committee, received Thursday by Ishpeming High School, ends Eric Dompierre's three-year fight to keep playing sports as a 12th-grader. Dompierre started school late because of the genetic disorder.
The MHSAA executive committee's judgment followed a vote by state schools to lift the age limit for sports eligibility under certain circumstances. Shortly after the vote results were revealed in late May, Dompierre formally filed a waiver request with the MHSAA.
The push to loosen the age requirement was accelerated after Dompierre petitioned to be able to play sports this season at the high school west of Marquette in the central Upper Peninsula.
A two-paragraph letter signed by MHSAA executive director John E. Roberts arrived Thursday.
The school contacted Eric Dompierre's father, Dean, who said his reaction was "relief."
"I'm proud of Eric and everything that he did to help not only himself but the other kids who are in his shoes," Dean Dompierre said. "I feel a great deal of thankfulness to everybody who came together to help these kids out. I'm amazed that it was done in time to help Eric and allow Eric to play."
Dean Dompierre said he immediately texted his son, who had just gotten home from football practice.
"Just like I am, he's relieved. I think he's been stressed out the last few days waiting to find out what the MHSAA decided. He's asked me several times if I've heard anything," Dean Dompierre said.
Eric Dompierre, a kicker, has been practicing with the team since practices began on Monday. He had been barred from playing in games prior to the waiver ruling. Dean Dompierre said his son had a few kicking attempts and got in for a play or two at another position last season, and coaches have said they plan to work the 5-foot-2, 141-pounder into game action a bit more this year.
Eric Dompierre will turn 20 in January.
Under the previous language of the MHSAA's constitution, students who turned 19 before Sept. 1 were prohibited from playing sports for the full academic year.
Michigan was one of about 40 states using a maximum age of 19 or younger.