Lawsuit filed seeking to reinstate Elkins player

CHARLESTON (AP) — An attorney for an Elkins High School football player filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn a ruling by the Secondary School Activities Commission declaring the player ineligible.

The lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction was filed in Randolph County Circuit Court on behalf of senior running back James Lawrence.

The SSAC earlier this week declared Lawrence ineligible and stripped Elkins of its seven wins this season. The SSAC based the ruling on a residency requirement.

The lawsuit claimed the SSAC violated Lawrence’s due process rights and a federal statute under which Lawrence is considered to be homeless.

It also said the SSAC had no authority to make guardian requirements upon an adult. Lawrence turned 18 in March.

Randolph County schools Superintendent James Phares has said Lawrence’s parent signed over guardianship rights to his grandmother.

SSAC attorney Bill Wooton said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit and declined comment Friday.

Elkins is 7-2 this season and was eighth in the latest SSAC Class AAA computer ratings. The top 16 teams at the end of the regular season make the playoffs, and the top eight earn home-field advantage in the first round starting Nov. 9.

Lawrence has rushed for 1,491 yards and 18 touchdowns this season.

If the SSAC ruling stands, Lawrence will suffer “immediate and irreparable harm” because he will be denied the chance to participate in the playoffs, as well as his chances to further his education with the aid of an athletic scholarship, the lawsuit said.

“The plaintiff has much more at stake concerning his reputation, character, and future regarding the outcome of this case than does the WVSSAC,” the lawsuit said.

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