The Honorable Harry D. Leinenweber of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled in favor of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) on Friday, January 25, following a court hearing on January 23.
The ruling centered on a fifth-year student-athlete seeking additional athletic eligibility. The student, who had previously been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), had exhausted the eight semesters of eligibility allowed by IHSA by-laws and had previously participated in four school years of competition in wrestling, which is the maximum allowed by the Association’s By-laws. As a result, the student was ruled ineligible by IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman and subsequently by the IHSA Board of Directors after an appeal. The student argued that the IHSA failed to grant him a reasonable accommodation as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
However, the court disagreed and in his written opinion Judge Leinenweber wrote, “(The student) also cannot establish that he would be “otherwise qualified” to participate in wrestling if it were not for his disability. Simply put, (the student’s) participation in wrestling for four years makes him ineligible under the IHSA by-laws regardless of whether he has a disability. But, if the Court were to allow (the student) to wrestle for a fifth year, despite the fact that he has already wrestled for four years, this would in effect be granting a privilege to (the student) that other students, disabled or not, do not enjoy. This belies the purpose of the ADA.”
“The eight semester eligibility rule and the four years of competition rule are both long-standing by-laws that are widely supported by our membership,” said Hickman. “They level the playing field, limit redshirting for athletic reasons and can help motivate student-athletes to remain eligible and complete school in four years.”