Members of the DeSoto County Board of Education were reminded during Thursday’s meeting to support the efforts of Olive Branch High School parents contesting the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s (MHSAA) removal of the school’s girls basketball team as 6A state champions, which the Lady Quistors won last March.
The team had their championship taken away and were made ineligible for post-season competition this season when the state governing body for athletics and extra-curricular activities ruled a member of the team violated its residency rules.
Taylor Woodhouse, now a freshman at Southaven High School, was added to the Olive Branch varsity roster at the end of her middle school season at Olive Branch Middle School last year. She did play sparingly in the post season but was not a factor in any of the team’s playoff victories.
The MHSAA declared her ineligible, however, stating that her residency in the Southaven High School attendance center prevented her from playing for Olive Branch.
DeSoto County School District policies allow that students who are children of district employees may go to school wherever their parent chooses to place them in the district.
However, MHSAA Executive Director Don Hinton said at the time of the championship removal, “Residency is a big thing with us. Players can only play in the school area they reside in.”
Supt. Cory Uselton and Olive Branch High School Principal Jacob Stripling were able to file for a hearing on the decision with the MHSAA, a hearing that has been set for Oct. 5.
A number of parents appeared during Thursday’s board meeting to ask for continued support in the matter.
“We have everyone on board to support Olive Branch High School in this endeavor,” one parent told the board. “The girls have the right to ask the board to support Mr. Stripling and I am asking the board to support us, as well.”
Another parent pointed out that, while Woodhouse was ineligible at Olive Branch, she is now eligible and will play this season for Southaven, having cleared MHSAA requirements.
“What we’re saying is, if that’s been overturned for her, why hasn’t it been overturned for the entire team?” the parent said. “There should be a domino effect for the entire team.”
One other parent reminded the school board there are more options available if the MHSAA holds fast with its decision.
“If the girls do not win the appeal, we have another five days to have another appeal,” she said. “Then it goes to arbitration with a third party.”
There have been other active efforts to drum up support for the Lady Quistors, who won the first girls’ basketball championship in school history when the team rallied to defeat Starkville 57-54 at Mississippi Coliseum. Flyers were placed on cars at last week’s Olive Branch-DeSoto Central football game, urging phone calls and letters to Uselton and Stripling to continue to support the move to have the MHSAA overturn its ruling.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.