Court Intercedes on Behalf of Player, Who Was Kicked Off Team

Dec 29, 2005

A state court judge in Fulton County, Ga. ordered Georgia Tech last month to reinstate one of its football players, fifth-year senior Reuben Houston, who had been suspended after he was arrested on felony drug charges.
Superior Court Judge M. Gino Brogdon’s ruling last month was unusual because courts rarely take up a case, where a school has suspended a player after an arrest and after finding that the student violated the school’s student-athlete code of conduct.
Since the ruling Georgia Tech has appealed.
Georgia Tech AD Dave Braine was alarmed at Judge Brogdon’s ruling, noting that such a decision could have major ramifications.
“I feel compelled to say that this decision will send shock waves through college athletics programs around the country,” Braine told the Macon Telegraph. “Playing college football, especially at a school like Georgia Tech, is a privilege, not a right. We must be able to set standards of conduct for our student-athletes, and we must be able to enforce and maintain discipline.”
The Georgia Tech Student Code of Conduct addresses the role of disciplinary actions when charges are pending, reading: “Disciplinary action at the Institute will normally proceed during pending criminal proceedings, and will not be subject to challenge on the ground that criminal charges involving the same incident have been dismissed or reduced. Students charged with felonies may be Interim Suspended and given the opportunity to request a review of the decision . . .”
The impetus for the controversy was Houston’s arrest on June 21 in Atlanta in connection with a marijuana distribution operation based in California. Federal prosecutors claimed Houston conspired to possess and distribute about 100 pounds of marijuana.
Initially suspended from the team and from the school, Houston sought out the courts, which temporarily reinstated him in school as well as reinstated the room and board privileges that other scholarship athletes receive.
Judge Brogdon wrote that he was wary of interfering “with the operation, management and administration of an educational institution.” However, Georgia Tech’s decision to expel Houston, then readmit him, but exclude him from football “was arbitrary and strikingly dissimilar to the school’s treatment of other similarly situated athletes who have been accused of breaking the law.”
Houston’s lawyer, Manny Arora of Garland, Samuel & Loeb in Atlanta, is portraying his client as receiving uneven treatment from the university. He told Sports Litigation Alert that there were at least two other players, who were arrested on comparable felony charges, but not kicked off the team.
Arora told SLA that the battle is far from over.
“The appellate briefs are due in the next few weeks,” said Arora. “Then we will either have oral argument or the court will decide on the written motions alone. I don’t know the time frame regarding the appeals court but I anticipate it will be months.”


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