Blystone case against PIAA withdrawn
By Jeff Oliver
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
The case of Zach Blystone vs. the PIAA took a new turn Monday when the family decided to withdraw its case over the football player's eligibility denial by the PIAA.
A hearing in front of Common Pleas Judge John F. DiSalle in Washington County to determine the status of a temporary injunction obtained by Blystone family attorney Joe Francis Oct. 4 scheduled for today has been cancelled and the PIAA expects to get official word that the family has withdrawn its legal action as soon as today.
PIAA Executive Director Bob Lombardi, reached at his home Monday because of the Columbus Day holiday, said it was the PIAA's hope to get confirmation on the legal action being dropped “sometime tomorrow (Tuesday).”
“We're trying to get that confirmation,” was all Lombardi would say when asked if the family had, indeed, withdrawn its case. “That is our hope.”
However, Francis said the family halted its quest after the Washington School Board voted Friday not to let Blystone play until the issue was decided in court.
“The injunction that we were able to obtain no longer served the purpose that we wanted it to serve,” Francis said, explaining why the family dropped the case. “We had an injunction in place, but the school board didn't want him to play football.
“When your own school is making statements that your case is no good, it puts a lot of pressure on this boy and his family. And that was getting to be too great.”
Blystone, a 6-3, 260-pound junior lineman who transferred from Charleroi Area to Washington, had been ineligible all season after the WPIAL ruled – and the PIAA upheld – that Blystone's transfer was at least partially motivated by “athletic intent.”
Several appeals were unsuccessful.
Two weeks ago, the Blystone family and Francis sought a court injunction and received it Oct. 4, and Blystone played later that night during a 50-14 win at Brownsville, rotating at guard, tackle and on the defensive line.
Blystone was again slated to play last week against Mt. Pleasant, however the Washington School Board held a special meeting Friday and reversed an earlier ruling and deemed the player ineligible for any football games until his status was decided.
Blystone did not play and Washington (6-1) was defeated by Mt. Pleasant (7-0), 47-22, in a battle of Interstate Conference co-leaders.
The PIAA had promised that if its decision was upheld by the courts, any game that Blystone played in would be forfeited by the Prexies.
When asked if the Blystones dropped their legal action if Washington would forfeit the win over Brownsville, Lombardi said, “That decision will be made with Wash High after talking to District 7 (WPIAL),” Lombardi said. “But first, we have to get confirmation” about the family dropping its case.
Charleroi Area Athletic Director Bill Wiltz, who said he was told by the PIAA that today's hearing in front of DiSalle was cancelled, said he hopes that the issue has finally come to an end.
“It has been a long ordeal,” Wiltz said. “It's been going on now since July and has been tough on everyone.”
Wiltz said he feels sorry for the student who chose to leave Charleroi Area, saying the district never sought to punish the child, merely intended to uphold the spirit of the WPIAL and PIAA by-laws.
“For us, it was never about the kid,” Wiltz said. “It was about kids can't be allowed to just go to school wherever they want to. You are supposed to go to school where you live.”
While Washington is currently in second place in the Interstate Conference and is coming off a season in which the Prexies went to the WPIAL Class AA title game last year, Charleroi is 1-6 overall and 0-6 in conference play.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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