Immaculate Heart Centrals football team will continue to compete against considerably larger schools after a federal judge on Friday dismissed the private schools lawsuit seeking reclassification.
U.S. District Court Judge David N. Hurd, Syracuse, granted summary judgment motions filed by the state Public High School Athletic Association and Section 3, motions that essentially contended that the two organizations had followed their bylaws for nonpublic schools when reclassifying IHC and did not discriminate against it because it is a Catholic school.
IHC respects the courts ruling this morning, though we are disappointed, Christopher E. Hornbarger, IHCs executive system administrator, said Friday. We had been hopeful, given how sympathetic the court seemed to our position, but it is such a high standard to overturn a statewide athletic classification system that we have known all along it would be very difficult to prevail.
IHC sued the two organizations in December 2010 after Section 3 voted in December 2009 to move the school from Class D to Class C for football. The move was based on IHCs performance over the previous two years, which had included a winning percentage of more than 80 percent and an appearance in the Class C sectional final. The organizations contended the move was necessary to ensure competitive play, arguing that IHC has the ability to recruit athletes from outside its geographical boundaries, a practice the school denies.
IHC maintained that the reclassification had no rational basis and forces its team to play against schools twice its size, creating a risk of injury to its players. The move was made despite enrollment numbers at IHC that would place it near the middle of Section 3s enrollment requirements for a Class D school.
Schools should compete on a level playing field, Mr. Hornbarger said. If one school has 200 eligible athletes, and another 800 eligible athletes, they should not be forced to compete in the same class. There should not be a double standard for public and private schools. Classifying schools by size is fair, results in good competition, and ensures the safety of student-athletes.
Mr. Hornbarger said the school has not yet decided whether it will appeal Judge Hurds decision.