MSHAA threatens to suspend Hattiesburg basketball team remainder of the year

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The situation involving Hattiesburg High School girls basketball team and the eligibility of senior transfer guard Tiaria Griffin may have become more serious.

A letter sent from Mississippi High School Activities Association Executive Director Don Hinton to Hattiesburg High School Athletics Director Cheyenne Trussell states that should the "Hattiesburg High girls basketball team continue to play Tiaria (Griffin)- an ineligible player- the MHSAA will take additional action.

"Such action will include suspension of the Hattiesburg High School varsity girls basketball team for the remainder of the year."

The MSHAA placed the Hattiesburg High girls basketball team on probation on Monday Nov. 7, for playing Griffin in the first game of the season the previous Friday. Trussell received the letter after Griffin played in the second game of the season on Nov. 8.

Additionally the letter states, "If this sanction is imposed, the MSHAA will instruct all of Hattiesburg High School's varsity girls opponents to refuse playing in any games against Hattiesburg High School. Further, the MSHAA will not schedule officials for Hattiesburg High School varsity girls basketball games."

WDAM caught up with Trussell, who spoke on record for the first time since the start of the case, and states, "There are several things about this case that are unprecedented.

"We filed with the (MSHAA) for the eligibility, and we got back a ruling…ineligible; no findings at all. So we had concerns about that."

After the original ineligible ruling, Trussell appealed to the Mississippi Executive committee, which ended with the same conclusion. "They had no findings," said Trussell, "They asked for additional information that we provided, whether it was the lease for June 1, when (Griffin and her mother) moved in (to their house in the Hattiesburg School District), electric bills, things of that nature. And it was the first time to our knowledge that (MSHAA) had used electric bills. They said not enough kilowatts were used in the month of used, and so they pretty much ruled her ineligible."

In a somewhat bizarre twist, Griffin's brother Steven, who will play baseball in the Spring, was ruled an eligible player by the MSHAA. "They both lived in the same house-hold with the same parent. So we didn't understand that," shared Trussell.

Trussell continued pointing to several factors which he feels should clearly deem Tiaria eligible. Vicki Rutland, Tiaria's former head coach at Lawrence County High School in Monticello, selected Griffin for the All-Star game in July, in which she scored 30 points. According to Trussell, a player must be in "good standing" in order to participate in that game.

"How could she be in good standing in July, and not in the month of August in the Hattiesburg Public School district," asked Trussell, "Part of the criteria to participate in that all start game is you must be in good standing with Mississippi High School Association, Mississippi Association of Coaches, as well as your local high school."

Griffin's mother first brought the case to the chancery court, who then gave it to the Federal court. The Federal court released an injunction on Sept. 30 that stated Griffin is allowed to play, while the MSHAA deemed her ineligible because they feel Griffin did not reside in the Hattiesburg Public School District long enough prior to the start of the school year.

The MSHAA states a player must reside in their school's district a minimum 60 days before the start of the school year.

Trussell shared he's not worried about the out-come of this case, and that Tiaria, who committed to the University of Georgia on Wednesday, will continue to play. "To us, it's a pretty cut-and-dry case," said Trussell

"There's no promise that we would go to the playoffs or the state championship. That's not what this is about. This is about right and wrong...We're excited. We're going to continue to show up and play, and let the courts handle this."

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