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Florida judge allows foreign-born player, team to compete in playoffs

By Phil Gast and Anna Rhett Miller, CNN
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Star's status forces team to forfeit
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: High school basketball player from Bahamas can play, judge says
  • Statewide athletic board says Brian Delancy, a native Bahamian, is ineligible
  • It argues school did not provide proper paperwork on his legal status
  • Attorney for star says he met requirements and is being singled out
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Read more about this story from CNN affiliates WSVN and WFOR.

(CNN) -- A Florida judge's ruling Wednesday will allow a foreign-born high school basketball player who was ruled ineligible and his team to compete in the playoffs, even though they could ultimately be stripped of any title they win.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Spencer Eig temporarily barred the Florida High School Athletic Association from disqualifying Brian Delancy, who was born in the Bahamas, and Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School from the district playoffs, which begin Thursday.

Delancy "is very happy and relieved and he feels happy for his teammates," said attorney David Baron, who helped represent the athlete, 19, and two other players.

The board of the athletic association, which said Krop did not file proper paperwork on Delancy's eligibility and immigration status, on Tuesday ruled he was ineligible and that the top-ranked team must forfeit the 19 games it won when the senior guard played.

Eig did not rule on Delancy's eligibility, but granted a temporary injunction to allow Krop to play until a full slate of hearings and appeals can take place within the athletic association,

Roger Dearing, the association's executive director, said it was too late to appeal Eig's ruling and Krop will compete.

But, he said, the ruling is not the end of the matter.

Dearing said the association will hear new appeals after the tournament, likely in April.

Now that Krop is in the playoffs, North Miami High School will be bumped from the four-team field in the district playoffs, Dearing said.

"There is no win for kids here," said Dearing. "What about the schools that played fair?"

Alan Goldfarb, another attorney for Delancy, said it was unfortunate about North Miami, but the school would not have made the playoffs if the athletic association had not ruled Krop ineligible.

Goldfarb said the association only recently decided to act.

"There's no proof yet that we've done anything wrong," Goldfarb said.

Dearing said Krop reported the paperwork issue last week and sought the emergency board appeal.

Federal law prohibits school districts from asking about a student's immigration status. The Florida athletic association does require information on players' eligibility and residency.

The association keeps such records so that "there is a fair and equitable playing field for all student athletes" and to discourage recruiting, association spokesman Seth Polansky said Tuesday. Where athletes come from "is not an issue," he said. "It is the paperwork."

"Playing athletics is a privilege and not a right," said Polansky, adding that it is up to schools to police themselves on student eligibility.

Baron said Delancy first attended a private school, which required an I-20 form. An I-20 is a student visa that gives international students permission to attend school. But Delancy or Krop were not required to provide such a form when he transferred to Krop, a public school, Baron said Tuesday.

Dearing said public schools must have such student visa forms and that Delancy's form had expired.

Although the athletic association board ruled Delancy ineligible and vacated the school's wins, its decision did not keep Krop out of the playoffs, said Polansky. Each district in Florida decides independently how its sports teams will advance in the post-season.

The emergency petition that was taken before Eig argued the athletic association never set a hearing or requested information from Delancy before making a "unilateral" determination on his eligibility.

Dearing disagreed.

"We have due process in every rule in our book," he said, adding it was Krop that asked for a waiver of the normal appeals process in order to get a ruling from the full board.

Baron argues Delancy has always been forthright with the school on his background and should not have to prove his legal status to play.

The athletic association believes Krop is being "disingenuous" about its knowledge and compliance with rules, Dearing said. The school was walked through proper paperwork last year because of another case involving international students, he said.

The executive director said the athletic association must ensure rules are met.

Baron said he knows that Krop could win it all and then lose the crown if the athletic association ultimately decides Delancy was ineligible and the wins should be forfeited.

"These kids are only concerned about playing for the championship," he said.