By Pete Herrera, The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE — The Las Cruces High School football team’s bid to extend its season got an assist Tuesday from a federal judge.
U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera sent back to state district court in Las Cruces a lawsuit filed by the parents of 19 Las Cruces High School players.
The parents on Friday sued the New Mexico Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports in the state, seeking to overturn its decision that the Las Cruces football team had to forfeit wins over Onate and Gadsden because the Bulldawgs had used an ineligible player.
The parents contend they were not allowed to properly appeal the NMAA’s decision. They do not dispute the ineligibility issue, but say they were denied due process.
The forfeits, if allowed to stand, would keep Las Cruces out of the playoffs that were scheduled to start this week. If the forfeits stand, Las Cruces would have a 3-7 overall record and 0-4 district record. If they are overturned, the Bulldawgs would be 5-5 overall and 2-2 in the district and in line for an at-large berth to the playoffs.
Herrera ruled the case belongs in state district court. The NMAA had hoped to have Herrera dismiss the lawsuit so the 5A playoffs could begin as scheduled this week. Now, it’s possible the playoffs will be delayed.
NMAA Executive Director Gary Tripp, who is also named in the lawsuit, planned to call an emergency meeting of the association’s board of directors to decide whether to continue fighting the lawsuit.
If the case takes more than a week to resolve, it’s likely the state 5A championship game won’t be played until the third weekend in December, he said. It originally was slated for Dec. 2.
The Las Cruces parents last week obtained a temporary restraining order from state District Judge Jerald Valentine. The restraining order prevented the NMAA from seeding the 12 teams that will make up the playoff field until the case is resolved in court.