By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Efforts are continuing in hopes that Lykel Collier will be able to play his senior season of basketball at Bluefield High School.
It was recently reported and confirmed by sources that Collier, a standout point guard who led the Beavers to the 2013 state championship, had transferred to New Hope Christian Academy in Thomasville, N.C.
However, Brian Cochran, an attorney with Brewster, Morhous and Cameron in Bluefield, who has been hired to appeal the case for the family, said Collier only visited New Hope, but never enrolled and is back at Bluefield High School.
"He went down there to consider his options, but never withdrew from Bluefield and never enrolled down there," Cochran said. "He just went down there for a visit."
Cochran has since filed a Petition of Reconsideration with the WVSSAC Board of Directors in an attempt to have the organization reconsider the case due to evidence that wasn't available in the initial appeal hearing in July.
Cochran, who wasn't hired by the family until after that hearing, did attend an appeal hearing with the review board in September in which the ruling was upheld.
Collier, who repeated the eighth grade due to personal reasons related to his family, was ruled ineligible because of a WVSSAC rule stating that a student who holds back in the sixth through eight grades is ineligible for his senior season of athletics.
Cochran found a similar case related to Wyoming County in 2007 in which a student was allowed to play. Cochran has asked that the WVSSAC rule 'fairly and consistently' related to previous decisions.
"We just want the WVSSAC to take another look at that rule," Cochran said. "At Lykel's first hearing they did not have knowledge of a previous precedent to a WVSSAC ruling made in Wyoming County."
Cochran also uncovered a past ruling in the ‘Hamilton Case’ by the West Virginia Supreme Court more than two decades ago in which the Court ruled that it was 'an unreasonable rule that did not consider legitimate academic reasons outside of failing.'
“There are a lot of legitimate reasons to hold a kid back even though he didn’t technically fail,” Cochran said. “We feel like the SSAC should consider legitimate academic reasons before they prevent a kid from playing.”
The WVSSAC recently ruled on a similar case related to Martinsburg High School quarterback Malique Watkins, who was denied his eligibility, but the Berkeley County Circuit Court overturned that decision and he continues to play.
Cochran hopes that ruling, in addition to the precedent set with the ruling in the Wyoming County case in 2007, will entice the SSAC Board of Directors to reconsider Collier’s situation and allow Cochran to present evidence that wasn’t available when the hearing in July was held.
“We feel like Lykel had several legitimate academic reasons to hold back and the SSAC did not consider that,” Cochran said. “We believe the Supreme Court requires that and the Martinsburg order confirms our argument that we made.”
Cochran, who has submitted the request to the SSAC, is now waiting for the organization to make the next move.
“It is done, it is up there with them. They can deny my request or give us another hearing, and there are some other options out there we are looking at,” Cochran said. “I believe the SSAC has to consider legitimate academic reasons for a kid holding back and now I know the court of Berkeley County agrees with me.
“I have requested that the SSAC and the board of directors let us come up there and give us another chance.”
Cochran is hoping the WVSSAC will reconsider the case based on evidence related to the ruling in Wyoming County and the past Hamilton case.
"We feel pretty good about our argument positions,” Cochran said.
—Contact Brian Woodson