Prep Football: Jordan students file suit over UHSAA transfer decision

Prep football • Californians were ruled ineligible earlier this week.
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A pair of transfer students from high schools in California have not given up their fight to play for the Jordan High School football team this season.

Clifford Betson and Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata both filed lawsuits in 3rd District Court on Thursday. The lawsuits seek to allow the two players to compete during this season.

The Utah High School Activities Association, which was named as the defendant in the complaints, issued a unanimous decision earlier this week that both players were ineligible. Part of the hearing panel's decision was based on the group's finding that signatures on the hardship paperwork had been forged.

That finding is at the heart of the two players' lawsuits. The complaints, which contain much of the same language, assert that neither player nor school officials at Jordan were responsible for the falsified signatures, so the players cannot be punished for them.

The association prevailed in the last lawsuit to come against the UHSAA, when basketball star Eric Mika transferred from Waterford to Lone Peak but was forced to sit out last season.

Although he only received paperwork for the latest lawsuits Thursday night, UHSAA legal counsel Mark Van Wagoner expressed confidence that the association would go down the same road.

"Generally on these sorts of things, the UHSAA has successfully defended its procedures," he said. "It appears there's nothing unusual in these hearings that would make them different than the others."

Laura Lui, the attorney for the boys, was not immediately available for comment Thursday evening. The players, who are distant cousins, moved to Sandy in the spring to live with their uncle, Stuart Tua. When he was asked during Tuesday's hearings if he had forged the signatures, he invoked the Fifth Amendment on the advice of Lui, who filed both lawsuits Thursday.

The complaints contend that the players' living conditions in California met the UHSAA's standards for a hardship waiver to be granted.

The lawsuits also argue that Tangikina Tua, the players' aunt, was granted temporary legal guardianship of both players Aug. 17, so that should be considered a valid change of residence to Jordan School District.

Janelle Stecklein contributed to this story. —