ENID — Garfield County District Court Judge Paul Woodward issued a final decision Friday that Chisholm senior Damien Rieman is ineligible to participate in athletics until March 26, 2020.
However, the ruling included a provision that prohibits Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association from taking any further sanctions against Chisholm’s football program in accordance with the previous injunction issued by the court that allowed Rieman to continue to play.
Accordingly, Chisholm will not have to forfeit the district games in which Rieman played and thus the district standings — and Chisholm’s district title win — remain intact. Rieman played in five district games, all of which were Chisholm victories.
“The judge upheld what our staff and what our appellate panel, as well as our board of directors, has determined, and that is that the student was ineligible to participate,” OSSAA Executive Director David Jackson said following Judge Woodward’s ruling.
Jackson said while OSSAA is happy the judge upheld the determination of the association’s staff and board, “it’s hard to feel good about something like this.”
“We don’t really feel like it’s a winning situation because we want young students to participate,” he said.
In front of a courtroom attendance of 16 people, including Reinart and Chisholm High School principal Shane Dent, Rieman's and OSSAA’s lawyers made opening arguments. Kaleb Hennigh, representing Rieman, argued OSSAA acted inconsistently with its own rules and reaffirmed Rieman’s hardship required moving outside of the Enid Public School District and into Chisholm Public School District. Hennigh also reaffirmed hardship requiring the move were beyond his, and his family’s, control.
Mark Grossman, representing OSSAA, stated that the plaintiff is burdened with showing the OSSAA’s process is flawed and hasn’t. Grossman said the OSSAA recognized the hardships Rieman and his grandmother faced but they did not convince the association those challenges required Rieman to change schools.
After nearly 45 minutes of deliberation, judge Woodward made his final decision.
While Woodward’s decision keeps Chisholm’s district championship intact, it does mean the end of the football season for Rieman. Since he is ineligible, he will not suit up for the Chisholm football team in its regular season finale tonight in Hennessey nor will he be able to participate in the Longhorns' postseason.
“Our teammates are going to be hurting a little bit because he’s been a great teammate, a great friend to these guys,” Chisholm head coach Joey Reinart said after the judge’s ruling. “I know it’s going to hurt them quite a bit as far as not having him with us to finish this deal out. We’ll address that and I know they’ll go out and fight for him and play hard.”
Woodward’s ruling comes a little more than a month after the court issued a temporary injunction against enforcing OSSAA's denial of Rieman’s request for hardship eligibility after Rieman had transferred to Chisholm from Enid High School.
Rieman’s fight for eligibility began in August when, according to court documents, Chisholm Public Schools principal Shane Dent applied for OSSAA hardship eligibility clarification, which is a transfer or residency waiver. Under OSSAA guidelines, a student-athlete must sit out one school year if they’ve established previous athletic eligibility at a previous member school.
The process of requesting a hardship waiver requires the requesting high school to send an athletic eligibility form to the student-athlete’s previous high school to be filled out. In order to be eligible, the student-athlete must be “in good standing” with their previous school.
Rieman had been a student in the EPS system from fourth grade and through most of his junior year, living primarily with his grandmother, Rachel Reaves, in the 1500 block of West Elm. According to court documents, Rieman would at times live with his cousin, Danny Bennett.
According to a Sept. 26 request for a temporary injunction, Bennett moved out of the EPS system and Rieman lived with his grandmother for the remainder of his sophomore and into junior year. Then in March, Rieman moved in with Bennett, who is now living in the CPS district.
OSSAA denied Rieman’s eligibility request on Aug. 30. According to court documents, OSSAA ruled the “documentation submitted did not demonstrate a circumstance beyond the control of the student, which compelled the student to change schools.”
In September, OSSAA voted twice to deny Rieman’s appeal for a hardship waiver.