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Iowa recruit Arland Bruce IV files eligibility appeal with Department of Education


Matthew Bain   | Des Moines Register
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The waiting game continues for Arland Bruce IV.

And he could be starting the longest wait of them all.

After the Polk County District Court denied their second injunction last Thursday, Bruce and his attorneys have formally filed their eligibility appeal with the Iowa Department of Education, his attorney, Travis Burk, told the Register on Monday.

The DOE now has up to 20 days to schedule a hearing. Then, after the hearing, it has an unlimited amount of time to render a ruling. There are three more weeks remaining in the Iowa high school football regular season.

"We are hoping for an expedited hearing," Brad Obermeier, Bruce's other attorney, told the Register.

Bruce, a three-star, 5-foot-10, 195-pound receiver who committed to the Hawkeyes last April, transferred to Ankeny from Olathe (Kansas) North in late August after his home county voted to postpone fall high school football because of the area's volume of COVID-19 cases. Ankeny approved Bruce's transfer Aug. 21.

On the morning of Aug. 28, however, the IHSAA informed Bruce and his mother, Linda Bruce, that Bruce did not meet eligibility requirements to play football this fall.

Attorneys representing Bruce filed a motion for an injunction the following Monday that would allow Bruce to play for Ankeny while he appealed the IHSAA's ruling. Later that week, Polk County District Court denied that injunction. In his ruling, however, Judge Robert Hanson recommended the association deem Bruce eligible.

The following Thursday, the IHSAA Executive Committee heard Bruce's eligibility appeal, during which his mother, Ankeny football coach Rick Nelson and the Bruce family's acting landlord in Ankeny spoke on Bruce's behalf.

One week later, this past Thursday, the IHSAA mailed its ruling to Bruce: ineligible.

Bruce and his attorneys then had their second injunction hearing Thursday afternoon. The judge ruled in favor of the IHSAA. Burk said the judge reasoned that Bruce wasn't being irreparably harmed by not playing because he has already landed a scholarship.

Both IHSAA Executive Director Tom Keating and communications director Chris Cuellar have told the Register the IHSAA cannot comment on ongoing eligibility issues.

Obermeier told the Register the IHSAA is basing its eligibility decision on how it believes the Bruce family to have dual residences; Bruce's two younger brothers still live with their legal guardian uncle in Olathe.

But Bruce's attorneys have argued Bruce isn't the only out-of-state transfer who has dual residences, according to what they view as the IHSAA's interpretation.

"Why did you do the deep dive on Arland but not these other kids?" Obermeier said. "The rules are not being applied equally to all these transfers."

According to the Douglas County (Colorado) Assessor's site, T.J. and Julie Rubley, the parents of Valley quarterback Jake Rubley, who transferred from Highlands Ranch in the Denver suburbs this August, still own a home in Colorado. T.J. hadn't resigned as Highland Ranch's head football coach until last week, Highlands Ranch athletic director Darren Withey told the Register on Monday.

"One: Are the rules clear on any of these issues? Are they reading additional language after the fact into their own rules?" Obermeier said. "And two: Are they being applied uniformly to all the out-of-state transfers?"

Again, the IHSAA cannot comment on ongoing eligibility issues.

Part of the IHSAA's transfer rules reads: "Interpreting the term 'residence' to allow for multiple residences would render the General Transfer Rule meaningless and this is not permitted as a tenant of statutory construction. ... Because there can only be one residence, the IHSAA must determine that the family in fact has only one residence."

In a sworn affidavit filed as part of her family's first injunction motion, Linda Bruce said she'd planned on moving closer to Iowa City after this year because Arland is set to play his next four seasons at Iowa and enroll there in January. She also said she does not currently own a house in Kansas and that, although she travels back to Olathe to see her younger sons on occasion, she will spend the majority of her time in Ankeny.

Also attached to the motion was a document showing Linda Bruce gave 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 isn't the only notable out-of-state transfer who hasn't been eligible this season. Southeast Polk lineman Sean O'Hara, who transferred from Illinois, and Johnston linebacker Christian Boivin, who transferred from Michigan, haven't yet played.

Rubley, Dowling Catholic lineman Dominic Virelli (transferred from Illinois), Southeast Polk receiver Isaiah Emanuel (transferred from Illinois), Clear Creek Amana defensive end Mark Gorbatenko (transferred from Illinois), Valley defensive back Landon Nelson (transferred from California) and Waukee receiver Dale Stout (transferred from Kansas) have all played.

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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