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Court says Arland Bruce IV can't play during appeal, recommends IHSAA rule him eligible


Matthew Bain   | Des Moines Register
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Iowa recruit Arland Bruce IV will have to watch more Ankeny games from the sidelines.

Following a Tuesday morning hearing, the Polk County District Court on Thursday denied Bruce's injunction on the Iowa High School Athletic Association's eligibility ruling, so Bruce won't be allowed to play football for Ankeny while he appeals the IHSAA’s decision. 

The IHSAA has set Bruce's appeal hearing with its executive board for next Thursday morning, and, in his ruling, the judge recommended the association rule Bruce eligible.

"As stated previously, the basis of (the IHSAA's) determination as to (Bruce's) eligibility is unclear but, to the extent it is based on (the IHSAA's) rule(s) relating to (Bruce's) and his family's current residence, it would appear that (Bruce) has a meritorious argument that he should be exempted from said rule(s) and should be considered immediately eligible for participation on Ankeny High School's varsity football team," Judge Robert Hanson wrote in his decision.

Bruce's attorneys filed a motion Monday morning asking for an emergency hearing on the IHSAA's decision to deem the receiver ineligible to play football at Ankeny this fall. They also requested an injunction on the IHSAA's ruling that would allow Bruce to play while he appeals his eligibility.

Chris Cuellar, the IHSAA's director of communications, told the Register the association cannot comment on ongoing eligibility issues.

"While we respectfully disagree with the ruling, we do understand that we sought an extreme remedy, as the administrative process is currently ongoing," Brad Obermeier, one of Bruce's attorneys, told the Register. "While Judge Hanson's opinion did deny our request for a temporary injunction, we do believe that the ruling does give an indication related to residency status and whether Arland should be eligible to play football.

"We are hopeful that the association, after the hearing next Thursday, will immediately enter a ruling that deems Arland eligible so he can play against Fort Dodge next Friday night."

Eligibility appeals normally go through the IHSAA executive board before being presented to an administrative law judge. That first step can take up to 25 days.

Bruce's attorneys hoped to skip that first step and go straight to court to get him eligible as soon as possible in a season that has been shortened due to COVID-19. That step will not be skipped, but the executive board hearing is scheduled for next Thursday.

The IHSAA informed Bruce and his mother, Linda Bruce, last Friday morning that Bruce did not meet eligibility requirements to play football this fall. 

If the court had sided with Bruce in the injunction and he played for Ankeny and still wound up losing his appeal, any Hawk wins with Bruce on the field would have had to be forfeited.

"We've reached out to the association and asked them to reconsider their ruling," Obermeier said. "The facts, the rules, the laws aren't going to change between now and next Thursday. The only fact that's going to change is Arland missing another game."

Bruce, who transferred to Ankeny from Olathe North in Olathe, Kansas, in August after his home county postponed fall high school football, told the Register the IHSAA's ruling boiled down to Bruce's family's living situation. Bruce's two younger brothers, who are in sixth and ninth grades, still live in Olathe, and his mom goes back and forth between Ankeny and the Kansas City suburb.

In a sworn affidavit filed Monday, Linda Bruce said she had planned on moving closer to Iowa City after this year because Arland is set to play his next four seasons at the University of Iowa. She also said she does not currently own a house in Kansas and that, although she travels back to Olathe to see her younger two sons on occasion, she will spend the majority of her time in Ankeny.

Also attached to the motion is a document showing Linda Bruce gave legal guardianship of her two younger sons to her brother before she moved to Ankeny, as well as a copy of the lease she signed when she and Arland moved to Ankeny. (According to the lease, rent is $100 per month. They live in part of another family's house in Ankeny.)

Bruce's transfer to Ankeny was approved by the school district Aug. 21, and he is currently enrolled as a student at Ankeny.

Bruce wasn't the only out-of-state transfer ruled ineligible Week 1. Christian Boivin, a linebacker who transferred to Johnston from Traverse City West in Michigan, was ruled ineligible for the Dragons' game against Urbandale. Sean O'Hara, a lineman who transferred to Southeast Polk from Nazareth Academy in Illinois, was ineligible for the Rams' season-opening win over Waukee.

Why?

"Figuring things out," O'Hara told the Register.

Meanwhile, other notable out-of-state transfers, such as Valley quarterback Jake Rubley, Valley defensive backs Landon Nelson and Trey Krause, Southeast Polk receiver Isaiah Emanuel, Clear Creek Amana defensive end Mark Gorbatenko and Waukee receiver Dale Stout, who also transferred from Olathe North in Kansas, were all eligible Friday night.

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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