Eric Woods saga goes to court; decision not until Friday

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

Senior Washington High School football player Eric Woods was ruled ineligible by the IHSAA in August for what they say was an improper transfer from Adams to Washington.

Woods was in St. Joseph County Circuit Court Tuesday, continuing his fight to play under the Friday night lights.

Last month, Woods lost an appeal to the review board; but his mother filed a restraining order and was granted a temporary stay, allowing Woods to play until Tuesday's hearing.

If Woods wins the hearing, he will be able to play in sectionals, which start this Friday.

If he loses, he will be ineligible and Washington will be forced to forfeit the two games he played in, including their share of the conference championship.

Woods’ family is asking for a preliminary injunction, which would allow Woods to play in this week's game against Clay and any subsequent games if Washington would advance in the playoffs.

The injunction is the same thing that was asked for in the Jasmine Watson versus the IHSAA case last year, which she was granted.

The similarities don't stop there. Woods is represented by the same attorney that argued for Jasmine Watson, who led off saying he based his case mostly on Watson’s as a precedent; saying the IHSAA ruling does more harm to Woods than overturning it would do to the IHSAA.

“I think they're all different. I think there’s quite a difference between this and the Watson case. You know, that would obviously be the ploy they want to use, but I don’t really see them being the same,” said Blake Ress, IHSAA commissioner.

Woods’ attorney also argued that Woods transferred from Adams, where he went for his first three years of high school, to improve his grades at Washington.

Wood’s mother says she wants him to bring his grades up to qualify for a scholarship program that has an academic requirement, and she says his grades have already started showing progress because of Washington’s trimester program. His GPA was 1.8 at Adams, and his report card entered into evidence showed all A’s and B’s so far in the first semester.

Meantime, the IHSAA argued that even though the transfer was originally approved; that under further review there was ‘over-reaching’ by Washington High School faculty to get the transfer through, and that athletics were a factor.

“I think Eric will get a fair hearing and I think the judge will sit and look at the evidence and make a fair decision,” said Angel Price, Woods’ mother.

The witnesses today included Price, two of his Washington coaches, and former Notre Dame scout Bob Chmiel.

The coaches tried to make the point that Woods could be a division 1 level player. But, they said he would need more varsity-level highlight tapes, especially against high-quality teams like he'd face in the playoffs, to get recruited.

If he wasn’t granted the injunction, Woods would only have the tapes from the two games he played on the varsity squad. Woods did play junior varsity for most of the season, but the witnesses testified those highlights wouldn’t be taken seriously by any potential recruiters.

They also made the point that because Woods switched from running back to wide receiver, his tapes from previous seasons with Adams wouldn’t help his cause either. Woods’ mother said he was interested in playing at schools like Ball State, Purdue, or Indiana University.

Special Judge David Matsey plans to have a ruling on the case by this Friday in time for Washington’s match-up with Clay High School.

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