Friday, April 11, 2008

The MHSAA Preps For Bankruptcy

The nervous days and tough decisions facing Michigan's caretakers of prep sports intensified yesterday as the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) finally responded to last week's stunning $7.4 million judgment against MHSAA for legal bills stemming from a gender-equity case the associated high schools fought and appealed with little success for approximately 10 years.

MHSAA released prepared statements revealing that its decision to continue appeals, as it related to potential legal costs and awards, was guided by prior case decision stemming from an affirmative action lawsuit involving the University of Michigan, where fees and costs were reduced 40-percent across the board by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. MHSAA also admitted that the award made by Judge Richard Alan Enslen 'exceeded even our worst-case scenario preparations'. MHSAA admitted they are considering an appeal of the award but are also preparing to file for protection from creditors. In short, MHSAA is preparing for bankruptcy.

As a three-sport official, I can tell you I still do not believe the MHSAA was hampering female student-athletes by playing girls' basketball in the fall and offering girls' volleyball in the winter. I admit my scope on this issue is narrow; I'm just a referee. Speaking as a contractor of the MHSAA as well as a taxpayer and property owner in Michigan, the prepared statements make me wonder if this is MHSAA's best course of action when it mentions the possibility of appeal.

Appeal is what got the MHSAA in this predicament in the first place, isn't it?

I wonder how the MHSAA will survive this, as many of us who care about high school sports are wondering. There is a lot of uncertainty and conjecture being offered about the survival of the MHSAA and what it, not to mention prep sports offerings, will look like if it manages to survive this.

I'm not familiar with all the case law that went into this 10-year battle, but I do know if this bill, which is adding interest at approximately $1,000 per day it remains unpaid, isn't settled soon, a judgment of lien will be placed upon the MHSAA, meaning any dollar going in and out of the MHSAA coffers would have to be first offered towards the outstanding bill. Attorney Kristen Galles, lead attorney for Communities For Equity (CFE) that brought forward the suit against MHSAA, remains unpaid after 10 years of litigation and could effectively control the MHSAA.

High school sports was never intended to be about litigation costs, judgments and awards or insurance policies for legal costs. How did this get so sideways so fast? Sadly, the ones who will answer those questions will be the student-athletes because they will mark the passing of this lengthy case as successful or not.

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