ENID, Okla. — A Garfield County District Court judge is expected to make a ruling Friday on the eligibility of Chisholm senior football player Damien Rieman.
According to online court dockets, a hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, with District Judge Paul Woodward.
The court is being asked to overturn a Wednesday ruling from the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association that declared Rieman ineligible, records show. It’s the second time OSSAA made such a ruling. The initial ruling came in August and was appealed to OSSAA, which upheld its initial ruling.
Rieman then filed for injunctive relief in Garfield County District Court. The court granted a temporary injunction in October.
The Longhorns (7-2, 5-0) clinched the 2A-1 district title Nov. 1 with a 23-13 win over Luther and thus earned two home games for the postseason. Rieman had four interceptions in that game. However, the case over Rieman’s eligibility leaves Chisholm’s season uncertain.
The 1:30 p.m. hearing will be held less than six hours before Chisholm’s 7 p.m. season-finale road game against Hennessy (0-9, 0-5). Chisholm head coach Joey Reinart said the court date will not throw a wrench in Chisholm’s preparations for the game.
“The biggest thing is to keep our kids’ heads straight and keeping them focused on the task at hand,” Reinart said. “I fully believe these guys have been really supportive of the process and they will do just that.”
According to The Edmond Sun, OSSAA media relations director, Van Shea Iven said he was not able to clarify whether the school would only lose Rieman for the remainder of the 2019 football season or if Chisholm would face any forfeiture punishments, as well.
Rieman appeared in six games for the Longhorns, according to MaxPreps. Five of those six games were district contests. If Chisholm is forced to forfeit games in which Rieman appeared, it would knock the Longhorns out of the playoffs.
According to court documents, Rieman resided in the Enid Public Schools district from the time he was in fourth grade up until his junior year at Enid High School and lived primarily with this grandmother, Rachel Reaves, in the 1500 block of West Elm. At times, Rieman also lived with a biological cousin, Danny Bennett.
Bennett is referred to as "Uncle Danny" in court documents. The court documents also state Bennett lived in the Enid school district during the years in which Rieman was attending Enid High School.
According to a Sept. 26 petition for a temporary injunction, Bennett moved out of the Enid Public Schools system. Rieman lived with his grandmother for the remainder of his sophomore year and into his junior year
In March, while he was still a junior, Rieman moved in with Bennett who is now living in the Chisholm Public Schools District.
Court documents revealed Chisholm High School Principal Shane Dent submitted an August request 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.
Court documents show Enid High School Principal Dudley Darrow filled out the eligibility form and checked “Yes” when asked if there was any reason to believe “this student, or the student’s family, were influenced or recruited to change schools for athletic purposes?”
In the Aug. 6 letter, Darrow wrote he did not believe Chisholm Public Schools officials influenced or recruited Rieman to transfer and play sports at Chisholm High School.
“However, from what I understand, Damien is receiving some unfortunate advice from an adult figure named Danny Bennett,” Darrow wrote OSSAA, according to court documents. “To my knowledge, Danny Bennett does live in the Chisholm School District, has a high school age son and has encouraged Damien to live with him and play sports at Chisholm High School. Finally, as stated earlier, Danny Bennett is not the legal guardian of Damien Rieman.”
Enid High School Athletic Director Billy Tipps declined to comment on Rieman’s case when contacted by the Enid News & Eagle.
In August, court documents state Chisholm Public Schools representatives submitted eligibility clarification forms to OSSAA, requesting a hardship exemption. Under OSSAA guidelines, a student-athlete must sit out one school year if they’ve established previous athletic eligibility as a previous member school.
On Aug. 30, OSSAA notified Chisholm Rieman’s athletic eligibility request was denied. 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, two OSSAA bodies voted to deny Rieman’s appeal for a hardship waiver. On Sept. 4, an intermediate appellate panel concluded with a 3-1 vote. On Sept. 18, the OSSAA Board of Directors voted 8-5 to deny Rieman’s appeal, forcing him to forgo his final year of high school athletics.
On Sept. 26, the Garfield County District Court ruled Rieman is entitled to an immediate order of injunction against OSSAA’s enforcement of denying Rieman’s eligibility.
The court ruled Rieman was eligible to participate as a Chisholm student-athlete and stated he was entitled to an immediate temporary restraining order against the defendant’s enforcement of any penalties or sanctions against the Chisholm Public Schools district for following the court order.
Judge Dennis Hladik signed the temporary injunction on Oct. 3.