09-06 stanczak-03

(left) Michael Stanczak, at Children's Hospital in Dallas after allegedly being assaulted by a team mate last September, and (right) Stanczak, 19, today.

A University Interscholastic Athletic League appeals board Monday ended Elkhart High School senior Michael Stanczak's year-long battle to play football again and earn a varsity letter in the sport.

It was a ridiculous and shameful outcome, created by an unyielding bureaucracy and a few myopic and mean-spirited decisions by UIL officials and school superintendents.

Stanczak must wonder what's worse: the brutal beating he took last year in the Palestine High School locker room, or the bureaucratic beatdown he received the last two weeks from the UIL and Crockett Superintendent Terry Myers.

To be sure, the UIL should not toss aside protocol for frivolous reasons. But exemptions and waivers are there to accommodate special circumstances and people like Stanczak. In this case, UIL and school officials lacked the wisdom and compassion to apply them.   

 Myers' puzzling and persistent efforts to keep Stanczak off the gridiron have embarrassed East Texas, defied the principles of logic, and rivaled the antics of a schoolyard bully.

He has ignored numerous calls from the Herald-Press, and who could blame him? It's hard to imagine how he could explain his actions, without looking even more unsympathetic.

Myers headed the local UIL committee that voted to ban Stanczak from football on the spurious grounds that Stanczak transferred to Elkhart, chiefly to play football. Superintendents Wade Stanford of Westwood and Bret Lowry of Franklin voted with him.

Happily, UIL's executive committee reversed that decision last week, acknowledging Stanczak qualified for an obvious UIL waiver for students transferring because of unavoidable, life-changing circumstances.

Still, in an Oct. 11 letter, Myers again raised questions about Stanczak's eligibility. The next day, on Friday, as Stanczak prepared to suit up for Elkhart's homecoming game, a UIL waiver review officer ruled against Stanczak because he was 19 and didn't graduate in four years. Stanczak turned 19 in July, two months before the UIL cutoff for eligibility.

To qualify for a waiver, Stanczak had to prove extenuating circumstances kept him from finishing high school in four years. A brutal beating that required months-long recovery and several surgeries, after Stanczak suffered a concussion, broken jaw and nose, as well as fractured facial bones and post-traumatic stress syndrome, ought to have sufficed.

Might doesn't always make right. People in authority sometimes abuse their power and make bad decisions that hurt people. Stanczak can at least thank the UIL and Myers for making those life lessons unforgettable.

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