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ROBERT ADAMEK ET AL. v. PENNSYLVANIA INTERSCHOLASTIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION (03/03/81)

COMMONWEALTH COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA


decided: March 3, 1981.

ROBERT ADAMEK ET AL.
v.
PENNSYLVANIA INTERSCHOLASTIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, INCORPORATED, A CORPORATION A/K/A P.I.A.A. SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PENN HILLS V. PENNSYLVANIA INTERSCHOLASTIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION. PENNSYLVANIA INTERSCHOLASTIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION, A CORPORATION, APPELLANT

Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in cases of Robert Adamek, Carol Adamek, his wife, Robert E. Adamek, by his parents, Robert and Carol Adamek; Anthony Theofilis, Angela Theofilis, his wife, Gary Theofilis, by his parents, Anthony and Angela Theofilis; Kier Ewing, Evelyn Ewing, his wife, Kevin Ewing, by his parents, Kier Ewing and Evelyn Ewing; Lucy Bruno, parent, and Carmen Bruno, by his parent, Lucy Bruno; Robert Phillips, Janet Phillips, his wife, Michael Phillips, by his parents, Robert and Janet Phillips; John E. Quint, Mary Catherine Quint, his wife, Patrick Quint, by his parents, John E. and Mary Catherine Quint; Bernard W. Flynn, Mary Ann Flynn, his wife, Thomas Flynn and John Flynn, by their parents, Bernard W. and Mary Ann Flynn v. Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Incorporated, a corporation, a/k/a P.I.A.A., No. GD 79-28320, and School District of Penn Hills, a body corporate v. Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, a corporation, No. GD 79-28664.

COUNSEL

Rod J. Pera, with him William M. Young, Jr., McNees, Wallace & Nurick, for appellant.

John M. Tighe, with him Martin F. P. Vinci, III, Tarasi & Tighe, for appellees.

Judges Mencer, Rogers and Palladino, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Mencer.

Author: Mencer

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 262]

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Incorporated (PIAA) appeals from that portion of the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County enjoining PIAA from causing the School District of Penn Hills varsity football team to forfeit three football victories. We reverse in part and affirm in part.

Penn Hills School District (Penn Hills) reported to PIAA, a nonprofit membership corporation composed of public and private high schools, that it had used a player on its football team who was academically ineligible under PIAA rules. The ineligible player had participated in three football games but did not contribute in any effective manner to the victory of each game. PIAA, after hearing, ordered Penn Hills to forfeit these three games. The forfeiture would have the effect of eliminating the football team from playoff competition.

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 263]

Several of the students on the team and Penn Hills subsequently sued in the lower court, seeking to enjoin PIAA from enforcing its order. The lower court reversed the action of PIAA and allowed Penn Hills to participate in the playoffs but ordered Penn Hills to forfeit its right to the net proceeds earned in any postseason game. This appeal followed.

The threshold issue in this case is whether participation in a sports program is a property right which each student enjoys and, concomitantly, whether the restriction imposed by PIAA is a deprivation of those property rights in contravention of procedural due process.

While this precise question is a novel one for this Court, no fewer than thirty jurisdictions have previously addressed this issue. The overwhelming majority of these jurisdictions have rejected the notion that participation in athletics is a property right.*fn1

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 264]

We find the majority rationale more persuasive. Dallam v. Cumberland Valley School District, supra note 1, accurately reflects the majority reasoning.

It is significant that in the context of finding a property interest in education the majority in Goss [v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975)] spoke in terms of a 'total exclusion from the educational process.' 419 U.S. at 576, 95 S.Ct. at 737. It seems to us that the property interest in education created by the state is participation in the entire process. The myriad activities which combine to form that educational process cannot be dissected to create hundreds of separate

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 265]

    property rights, each cognizable under the Constitution. Otherwise, removal from a particular class, dismissal from an athletic team, a club or any extracurricular activity, would each require ultimate satisfaction of procedural due process.

We do not read Goss as creating an avenue of judicial intervention into the basic, daily discretionary activities of the public schools. . . .

Id. at 361-62 (footnote omitted).

The possibility of athletic scholarships does not invest the student with a property right.

Courts which have entertained the question have refused to discern a property interest in interscholastic athletic competition. It is not part of 'a student's entitlement to a public education,' as delineated in Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565, 95 S.Ct. 729, 42 L.Ed. 2d 725 (1975); Albach v. Odle, 531 F.2d 983 (10th Cir. 1976). Moreover, injury from lost media exposure and lost opportunities for athletic scholarships are 'too speculative to establish a property interest as defined in [Roth'] Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 92 S.Ct. 2701, 33 L.Ed. 2d 548 (1972)[.] Parish v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 506 F.2d 1028 [1034 n. 17] (5th Cir. 1975).

Yellow Springs Exempted Village School District Board of Education v. Ohio High School Athletic Association, supra note 1, at 758 n. 37.

[ 57 Pa. Commw. Page 266]

Having concluded that the student plaintiffs have no property interest in participating in interscholastic sports,*fn2 we must reverse the lower court on this point and affirm the action of PIAA.*fn3

Order reversed in part and affirmed in part.

Order

Now, this 3rd day of March, 1981, that portion of the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the above captioned matter, dated November 2, 1979, which enjoined Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Incorporated, a corporation a/k/a P.I.A.A., from ordering or causing Penn Hills football team to forfeit three football victories, is hereby reversed. In all other respects the order is affirmed.

Disposition

Reversed in part and affirmed in part.


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