Prep football: UHSAA again denies eligibility for California transfer

Prep football • Despite mom's move, Fa'agata won't play.
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Even though Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata's mother has moved to Utah to be with her son, the Utah High School Activities Association again has denied his request for a chance to play sports at Jordan High School.

The UHSAA reconvened the panel that ruled in Fa'agata's original case to hear more evidence that the Fa'agatas had made a full family move.

Lisi Fa'agata moved from San Leandro, Calif., to Sandy about a month ago, and she testified that she had held off moving while she arranged her finances and job situation. She entrusted Stuart Tua, her cousin, and his wife to look after her son but decided to move to Utah herself shortly after D.J.'s initial appeal was denied.

"When I heard all this was going on, it broke my heart," said Lisi Fa'agata, who said she worked as a part-time volleyball coach. "I had to make a decision to leave my team at my school in California. My son is more important to me."

But despite sometimes emotional, sometimes tense testimony, the result came out the same: The teenager will not be allowed to play for the No. 1-ranked Jordan football team.

The panel determined that the Fa'agatas did not have a full family move because they did not move at the same time, and because their previous residence was being leased by other family members. An ongoing lawsuit involving Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata and fellow transfer Cliff Betson and the association could determine if the two teenagers are allowed to play any other sports. A trial date is set for Nov. 30.

Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata's eligibility is unlikely to affect his long-term future. The 6-foot-2 receiver has committed verbally to play football for Utah State, and his offer stands even if he doesn't play a down of football this year. Tension still bubbled during the hearing, which was being recorded by a court stenographer because of the lawsuit. Jordan coach Eric Kjar openly questioned the direction of the panel's inquiries, wondering why Dynamite-Jones Fa'agata's ability or scholarship offer had anything to do with determining his eligibility.

Full family moves generally are approved by the UHSAA, aside from factors such as dishonesty or undue influence — Jordan principal Tom Sherwood referred to full family moves as "the holy grail" of eligibility in the hearing. But UHSAA legal counsel Mark Van Wagoner said since the Fa'agatas did not meet the association's standard, their options are just about worn out aside from the lawsuit.

"The association has met with every request for a hearing," he said. "This should show that the family has received due process."