St. Paul’s Episcopal School will play football in the 6A classification this fall after a judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction to delay the implementation of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) “competitive balance factor.”
As Lagniappe reported, the Mobile-based private school filed a lawsuit in May targeting the “competitive balance factor” AHSAA introduced last fall that forces successful private schools to play in increasingly larger athletic classifications.
The rule was introduced after several private schools continued to have unrivaled success in high school football as well as other sports.
The AHSAA opted to calculate which teams were too successful using a point system — one point for making a state playoff quarterfinal, two points for a semifinal and four points for an appearance in the state championship for any sport.
For St. Paul’s, which has won three 5A state football titles in the past five years, the rule change meant an upgrade to a 6A classification that includes public high schools like Blount, Saraland, Spanish Fort and Daphne that have found their own success on the gridiron.
The school filed the lawsuit last month claiming the CBF was unfair, unconstitutional and only implemented because of “bare animus” against “politically unpopular” private schools. At the same time, St. Paul’s filed a motion seeking an injunction to remain in the 5A classification this fall.
While he didn’t get into the merits of St. Paul’s claim, United States District Judge William H. Steele ruled Wednesday that “St. Paul’s has failed to demonstrate a substantial likelihood of success” in its lawsuit, and therefore was not entitled to an injunction.
“It is not the role of this Court to decide whether the competitive balance rule is the wisest, fairest, best or most efficient way of advancing the objective of promoting competitive balance in interscholastic athletics,” he wrote. “Whether the Court thinks it is a good rule or a bad rule is irrelevant. This Court may not substitute its judgment for that of the Association.”
He also rejected St. Paul’s claim that the CBF puts private school students at an elevated risk of concussion and other serious injuries by forcing them to play larger schools because its football team has “voluntarily scheduled games against 6A and 7A opponents for years.”
Steele also noted that the Alabama Supreme Court has “repeatedly emphasized the AHSAA’s near-absolute authority in its own affairs,” adding that “a courtroom is rarely the proper field for competition when it comes to disputes over high-school athletic rules.”
As a result, St. Paul’s will begin its original 2018 football schedule with an Aug. 24 matchup against cross-town rivals UMS-Wright. The Saints will also play St. Stanislaus, Baldwin County, Blount, Gulf Shores, Spanish Fort, Saraland, B.C. Rain, Daphne and Robertsdale this year.
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