LHSAA turns down Episcopal’s request for second hearing for Clement Mubungirwa

Saying there wasn’t enough new information to warrant another appeal, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association turned down Episcopal’s request for a second hearing aimed at granting eligibility to Clement Mubungirwa on Monday.

“It was decided that there wasn’t enough new evidence submitted to offer another hearing,” LHSAA Executive Director Kenny Henderson said. “So the decision previously made (in March) is final.”

Henderson said he consulted with several members of the LHSAA’s executive committee, which made the decision to deny the appeal. The decision Monday was needed because, had a second appeal been granted, it would have been heard on Thursday or Friday when the LHSAA hosts its annual summer meeting at its Baton Rouge office.

The LHSAA executive committee is still scheduled to deal with fallout from the Mubungirwa case during its summer meeting. A law passed during the recent legislative session would require eligibility-based appeals like Mubungirwa’s to go to a third-party arbitrator, and the executive committee must now determine how the law will be implemented.

After the executive committee denied Episcopal’s March appeal to grant Mubungirwa eligibility as a 19-year-old for the 2014-15 school year, the case drew statewide attention. The two-sport athlete came to Baton Rouge, through the work of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Baton Rouge, as a 12-year-old from a refugee camp in Uganda with little formal schooling. He has worked to make up nearly 12 years of school work while attending St. Aloysius and Episcopal.

Mubungirwa, who is now a U.S. citizen, is 55 days too old to compete in 2014-15 under LHSAA rules that prohibit 19-year-olds born before Sept. 1 from competing. The rule dates to the 1950s and has never been overturned by the LHSAA board.

Despite a limited background in organized sports before coming to Episcopal as an eighth grader four years ago, Mubungirwa became a football and soccer standout for the Knights. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder scored 33 goals and had 10 assists in soccer and rushed for 1,358 yards and 19 TDs in his only season as a high school running back last year.

Skeptics have questioned the school’s motives for extending the appeal beyond the scope of the LHSAA. Sen. Dan Claitor, D-Baton Rouge, sponsored Senate Bill 633, which became the arbitration measure that passed. Rep. Neil Abramson, R-New Orleans and an Episcopal graduate, also sponsored legislation on Mubungirwa’s behalf.