Supreme Court says Watson was ineligible; Washington not expected to forfeit games

It was two years ago when the St. Joseph County Circuit Court overruled the Indiana High School Athletic Association and ruled Jasmine Watson eligible to play basketball at South Bend Washington.

Now, two years later, the State Supreme Court says the Circuit Court was wrong.

In a 3-2 vote on Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the IHSAA and declared that Watson was not eligible to play for South Bend Washington two seasons ago.

The decision could mean the IHSAA could strip Washington's off all of its wins from that season, where the Panthers went all the way to the state finals in the senior season for Skylar Diggins.

But that's what the IHSAA plans to do.

"I don't think that's a real likely option," IHSAA Commissioner Blake Ress told NewsCenter 16 on Monday. "I guess that's out there, but that was not the reason we appealed. The reason we appealed was because of the language in the decision. So I don't think that's real likely."

Watson transferred from Elkhart Memorial to South Bend Washington, but the IHSAA said it was for athletic reasons. She sat out the first eight games before the Circuit Court put her back on the basketball court.

The Judge in the case said the IHSAA used hearsay evidence and should not have. That's the reason the IHSAA appealed.

"When you have eligibility hearings and you don't have subpoena powers, you pretty much have to use some hearsay evidence because the people you want to testify may not be willing to come," Ress explained.

"The ability to use witnesses to tell us what other people told them is important. That's the primary reason we appealed."

Ress said if the Circuit Court's ruling stood, the IHSAA would have significant trouble with cases moving forward because it wouldn't be able to use the hearsay evidence. He says, because the case was in court over the last two years, they have continued to use the same policy in transfer cases and haven't had too switch their procedures.

"It would make it pretty difficult to have an administrative hearing if the people who really have the information aren't willing to come to testify and no one who they told things to can even say that," Ress continued. "That makes it pretty difficult to have a case."

The case is still not completely resolved as the Watsons or the South Bend Community School Corporation have 30 days to appeal.

Corporation Director of Communications Sue Coney says they have not yet made a decision and still must sitdown with the IHSAA to discuss some matters.

It's not known what the Watsons will do although they were not heavily involved in the Supreme Court hearings and are not expected to make an appeal.

Watson is now a sophomore at UMass playing Division One basketball and the decision does not change her eligibility at the college level.

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