BM asks PIAA for an injunction | News, sports, jobs
By Phil Ray
A lawyer representing Bishop McCort Catholic High School has asked a U.S. district judge in Johnstown to issue an injunction against an order from the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Association banning the school’s wrestlers from participating in post-season tournaments.
The injunction filed by Joshua S. Mazin of Nazareth also calls on the judge to temporarily overturn a PIAA order prohibiting William Bassett from continuing to serve as the school’s wrestling coach during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.
The motion was filed on Monday and accompanied a civil rights lawsuit against the PIAA demanding more than $ 50,000 in damages.
The lawsuit alleges that the Pennsylvania State Legislature’s organization to regulate inter-school athletics violated student civil rights and defamed Bassett when its Appeals Committee on Dec. 14 upheld a PIAA District 6 committee finding that McCort athletes were upheld for his wrestling program.
The sanctions imposed by the PIAA included not only banning post-season competitions and disqualifying Bassett as a coach, but also put McCort’s sports program on parole until June 2024.
“The PIAA will not suffer any damage if (the wrestlers) compete in the PIAA postseason, as they are entitled to do so and this authorization has been withdrawn by the draconian and de facto unsupported sanctions of the PIAA.” as requested by Mazin.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Stephanie L. Haines.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Bassett, not only as a coach, but also as a teacher and parent to a child who McCort attends, and 10 others whose children are enrolled in the wrestling program.
The children who are referred to by their initials in the legal documents include 7th to 12th grade wrestlers.
Many of the students participating in the wrestling program transferred to Bishop McCort from the Forest Hills School District.
Students come from local communities including Johnstown, South Fork, Armagh, St. Michael, Windber, Osceola Mills, Salix, and Indiana.
Bassett was hired as a teacher in February 2021, according to information in the legal papers.
He was named a wrestling coach last May.
As shown in the lawsuit, the students who switched did so for various reasons.
Many had “Academic questions” in their former schools while others complained of bullying, and one student came to McCort after his family moved near a sister who attended Mt. Aloysius College.
Bassett has a background in wrestling and athletics coaching, runs a training facility called Compound, and volunteers coaching for a club wrestling team called Ranger Pride Wrestlers.
Sixty-five percent of wrestlers who switched did so before Bassett was named wrestling coach, it was indicated in the lawsuit.
All transfers were cleared for eligibility by District 6, but things changed last August when a second moved from Forest Hills to McCort.
Forest Hills requested a hearing to see if the student switched for athletic reasons, and after a hearing, the District 6 Committee decided that it was.
The lawsuit explains that “Inexplicable and without prior notice to all plaintiffs”, District 6 has scheduled a second hearing to determine if the school’s wrestling program was involved in the recruitment.
The committee did not inform the youths involved of the hearing, did not give them the opportunity to be represented by a lawyer, or gave them the opportunity to testify.
The District 6 group then handed what was stated in the lawsuit under the “The toughest penalties the committee has ever imposed.”
The verdict has been appealed to the PIAA, which has slightly modified District 6’s verdict, it says.
The trainer and other parents ask the magistrate to declare that the PIAA has violated the rights of the students.
The PIAA claims that Bishop McCort violated his statutes “To deter recruits who are in any way materially motivated for athletic purposes.”