Super Decision for Brooke

WHEELING – It’s time to play some football.

A Tuesday order by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals means the Bruins of Brooke High School will play Martinsburg at 7 p.m. Saturday for the Class AAA title at Wheeling Island Stadium.

The high court declared Kanawha County Circuit Judge Carrie Webster overstepped her bounds in prohibiting the state Secondary Schools Activities Commission from suspending four South Charleston High School athletes involved in a brawl at the conclusion of that school’s quarterfinal playoff win over Hurricane.

Following announcement of the decision around noon Tuesday, the SSAC wasted little time in declaring South Charleston’s subsequent, 29-28 semifinal victory over Brooke – in which those four players competed – a forfeit.

Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht had ordered the title contest postponed as the controversy over the South Charleston athletes’ eligibility made its way through the courts.

In a four-page document, the Supreme Court stated, “Upon review, this Court finds that the lower court exceeded its authority in issuing the preliminary injunction. …

“This Court has long recognized that the Legislature intended the WVSSAC to promulgate rules to carry out its control, supervision, and regulation of interscholastic athletic events and that courts should not interfere with the internal affairs of school activities commissions,” the order continues.

The decision references the Supreme Court’s 2008 opinion in a case involving former Huntington High School basketball star O.J. Mayo, who now plays for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies. That decision overturned a Cabell County judge’s injunction that prevented the SSAC from enforcing a four-game suspension against Mayo for technical fouls and making contact with a referee.

“(W)e observe, as we did in Mayo v. Secondary Schools Activities Commission … that it would be ‘unwise to proceed down the path suggested by the trial court by ‘inviting courts to review an official’s judgment,'” the Tuesday order reads.

Justices also addressed Recht’s Nov. 30 order delaying the title game, which held the contest should not be played until a “final order” was reached in the matter. They declared “that with the issuance of this order this matter is final,” and any decision whether South Charleston would be required to forfeit “must be resolved solely” by the SSAC.

Brooke County Schools Superintendent Kathy Kidder-Wilkerson said the Supreme Court’s decision “best serves every school in West Virginia.”

“Because of today’s ruling, game officials and referees will know they do not have to look over their shoulders after every decision,” she said.

Brooke County Prosecutor David Cross, whose motion to intervene in the case was granted, said while the high court’s Tuesday action is a binding “order,” he noted a full opinion from the justices is yet to come.

“This is what we worked for,” Cross said. “The Supreme Court did a great job.”

Super Six Director and Wheeling Park High School Principal Bernie Dolan said he and fellow committee members will be hard at work for the rest of the week to provide Brooke and Martinsburg “the best championship atmosphere we can give them.”

“I don’t think anyone wanted the courts to get involved like this, or decide the championship,” Dolan said. “We want to see this settled on the field.”