After weeks of not knowing the future of his junior football season, Cardinal Mooney player Nicholas Bilas is now is eligible to play football for the Cardinals.
On Monday, Mahoning County Magistrate Timothy G. Welsh ruled that Bilas transferred to Cardinal Mooney from Poland for reasons other than football and that the Ohio High School Athletic Association used the wrong rule to declare the lineman ineligible.
"I was very confident that the court would overturn the OHSAA decision," Bilas' attorney, Mark Hanni, said.
The decision referred to was one that was made by the OHSAA in August saying that Bilas was ineligible to play interscholastic sports at Cardinal Mooney for a year due to transfer guidelines set by the OHSAA. The OHSAA transfer policy says transferees into a private high school, after attending another local public or private high school, are ineligible for athletics for one year.
Bilas went to school and played for Poland prior to his family moving to Youngstown over the summer. According to Hanni, Bilas' father, a member of the military who has served numerous tours overseas, was promoted, and the move was made for financial reasons.
With the OHSAA declaring Bilas ineligible, his family took to the courts, and got a temporary restraining order allowing Bilas to play at the beginning of the season. The restraining order was extended through Sept. 14.
Now with the ruling made my Welch, Bilas is allowed on the field for the season.
"We gave overwhelming, credible evidence and they based their decision on that, not the evidence given to them by Mr. Banfield (Poland athletic director)," Hanni said. "I knew once it got to court, any court after reviewing the evidence, would have overturned the decision."
Kimberly Bilas, the mother of the plaintiff, stated for evidence that, "The move was made based upon her concern for her family's future financial condition in light of her husband's change in rank and assignment and the academic benefits afforded by Cardinal Mooney High School with the respect to its system of 'block scheduling' of classes."
It was also stated in the ruling Bilas was motivated by the spiritual support that her son would receive at Mooney that was not available at Poland.
In the ruling Welsh wrote, "Depriving Nicholas Bilas of the opportunity to participate throughout his junior year of high school athletics will cause him to suffer irreparable harm. He will be denied the opportunity to gain the benefits of athletic training ... as well as potential college scholarship opportunities. This threat outweighs any threat of harm to all others involved including the OHSAA."
However, the ruling can still be appealed, if the OHSAA or Poland choose to pursue it. If appealed, the decision would be sent to the Seventh District Court of Appeals.
"We are reviewing the magistrate's decision and will determine soon our next course of action," said OHSAA Spokesman Tim Stried via email.
But for the meantime, Bilas can play with his teammates without worry.
"I was honored to fight for the rights of this family, as his father is fighting for ours," Hanni said.