Avonworth’s Kyros Thorpe seeks court injunction to play in WPIAL Class 2A football final
Wednesday, November 20, 2019 | 5:14 PM
Turned away by both the WPIAL and PIAA, Avonworth senior Kyros Thorpe is taking his eligibility battle to court.
Thorpe and his mother Anna Hollis filed a lawsuit in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court seeking an injunction that would let Thorpe play Saturday in the WPIAL Class 2A football championship. He played in the regular season but is ineligible for the postseason under a PIAA rule that targets all transfers after the start of 10th grade.
Thorpe transferred home from Central Catholic in July.
The PIAA rule — intended to discourage athletically motivated transfers — can be waived under certain circumstances, but both the WPIAL and PIAA boards voted that Thorpe didn’t qualify for a waiver.
Common Pleas Judge Don Walko will hear the injunction request at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
The lawsuit argues that Thorpe’s “ability to attain an educational and sports scholarship are at risk, substantially altering the rest of his professional and personal life.”
His request for a waiver was based on a “demonstrable change in income or other financial resources that compels withdrawal from a school,” one of six exceptional or unusual circumstances listed in the PIAA transfer rules. The lawsuit notes that the PIAA doesn’t provide guidelines for what it considers to be sufficient evidence to demonstrate a change in income.
Thorpe attorney Patrick Horvat declined comment until after the hearing.
Hollis, in the court filing, noted that her income had declined and tuition assistance from Central Catholic also was to be reduced. Hollis is executive director of a nonprofit organization.
A brief in opposition filed by the WPIAL and PIAA argues that “financial hardship” wasn’t mentioned as a reason for transfer in Thorpe’s original paperwork but rather an unfinished renovation project and “academic and cultural differences.”
“(Financial hardship) only came up after the family realized that the reason tendered for the transfer would not qualify for a waiver of postseason ineligibility,” wrote the WPIAL and PIAA in a response submitted by WPIAL attorney Brian Simmons.
“Additionally, while Hollis testified to PIAA and WPIAL about an alleged drop in income, at the time of the initial hearings before WPIAL and PIAA, no such drop had occurred. That did not occur until many months after the transfer.”
PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi declined to comment on active litigation.
Avonworth superintendent Tom Ralston said the school district also had no comment. However, if the injunction was successful, the school board would decide whether Thorpe plays Saturday, Ralston said, not the football coach.
The WPIAL and PIAA response cautioned that if Thorpe were to receive an injunction, play Saturday and later lose his court case, Avonworth would be forced to forfeit any postseason wins in which he participates — including the WPIAL championship.
“Plaintiffs place at risk the ability of Thorpe’s team and teammates to attain great success at the local and state level,” the WPIAL and PIAA said.
Thorpe (5-foot-9, 173 pounds) is a standout wide receiver and defensive back. The second-seeded Antelopes (13-0) face top-seeded Washington (13-0) in the WPIAL championship Saturday. He leads the team in receptions (23) and ranks second in touchdowns (12) despite missing three regular-season games to injury.
He also sat out the team’s first three playoff games.
Thorpe announced a nonscholarship, preferred walk-on offer from Marshall last month on Twitter.
He’s not the only WPIAL athlete in recent years to take an eligibility fight to court.
In 2013, Washington football player Zach Blystone was awarded an injunction but later dropped his lawsuit when the school board voted to not let him play.
In 2009, Lincoln Park basketball player Justin Hosack received an injunction and played six games before a state court sided with the PIAA, making him again ineligible.
In 2001, sisters Laura and Ashley Revesz were awarded an injunction to play basketball for Chartiers Valley. The state court later sided with the PIAA but that decision came months after the season.
The PIAA didn’t enact its postseason eligibility rule until the summer of 2018. Transfers now are immediately ineligible for the postseason in any sport they played the season before at their previous school.
Thorpe is postseason ineligible for football and track.
The WPIAL originally denied him a postseason waiver after a Sept. 5 hearing and the PIAA upheld that decision Oct. 2. Avonworth returned to the WPIAL with new evidence and received another hearing Nov. 7. Thorpe again was turned down and the PIAA declined to hear his appeal a second time.
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .