Prairie Seeds disqualified

Charter school disqualified from state soccer tournament despite taking high school league to court

Despite taking the Minnesota High School League to court, the Brooklyn Park charter school Prairie Seeds Academy was disqualified from the State Class A Boys’ Soccer Tournament.

The league announced the decision to disqualify Prairie Seeds Oct. 24, after its investigation into an Oct. 18 post-game brawl with players from Fridley’s Totino-Grace High School. Prairie Seeds won the game 2-1 but wasn’t allowed to advance to the quarterfinals.

Maple Grove Police say it could take weeks to finish investigating the fight, captured on video by Channel 12. The video appears to show a Totino-Grace player shove a Prairie Seeds player, who then threw a punch. Mayhem ensued. Preliminary injury reports from the police indicated one person had a cut lip, but no serious injuries were reported.

School officials from Prairie Seeds accused Totino-Grace players of using racial slurs during the game, but Totino-Grace officials disputed the allegations.

Results of the high school league’s investigation led to suspensions of 10 players.

But the disqualification was not due to the fight. During its investigation of the brawl, the high school league said, it received information suggesting a Prairie Seeds player involved in the altercation was ineligible.

According to the league, records show a player on the team attended a different school last school year and transferred to Prairie Seeds this fall. It said the school never initiated a “Student Transfer Online Form,” which means the player was ineligible to play varsity soccer. As a result, the league said Prairie Seeds must forfeit the sectionals game and honors, per League Bylaw 304, which states, “If an ineligible student is used in any interscholastic contest, whether deliberately or inadvertently, forfeiture of the game and honors for team sports… shall be automatic and mandatory.”

Prairie Seeds was scheduled to play a quarterfinal match against Duluth’s Marshall School Oct. 26 in Roseville. The league would not allow Totino-Grace to replace Prairie Seeds “because of the uncertainty of which team may have advanced earlier in the section tournament had Prairie Seeds Academy not played.”

Totino-Grace issued a statement saying it does not condone the violence that followed the Oct. 18 game, but thinks the league should have allowed it to advance when Prairie Seeds was disqualified.

“We are disappointed that the Minnesota State High School League has determined that our team will not be permitted to replace the disqualified team and respectfully disagree with their decision,” the statement said.

Prairie Seeds also disagreed with the league, arguing the team shouldn’t have been disqualified. So the school went to court Oct. 25 seeking a temporary restraining order that would have allowed the team to play Marshall the next day.

The judge denied the request shortly after 3:30 p.m. Oct. 26, less than two hours before the scheduled game. Marshall School buses had arrived in Roseville when they got word and turned around to head home. Marshall advanced to the semifinals at the Metrodome Oct. 29.

League Executive Director Dave Stead praised the judge’s decision.

“It’s unfortunate anytime students are not allowed to participate,” he said, according to a statement from the high school league. Nevertheless, “the decision upholds the integrity of the League’s bylaws.”

But Prairie Seeds head soccer coach and Athletic Director Youssef Darbaki told Sun Newspapers the disqualification was “not fair” and seemed to suggest the league was seeking an excuse to disqualify the team.

“They were looking for a reason,” he said.

A statement from Prairie Seeds Principal Choua Lee Yang said the school supports the league’s suspension of players involved in the brawl but disagrees with the decision to disqualify, claiming the school complied with the league’s requirements.

“Prairie Seeds Academy coaching staff and school administration have always taken student athlete eligibility requirements very seriously and have always followed MSHSL procedures and protocols,” Yang’s statement said. “This case was no exception. … PSA athletes have worked very hard, overcoming several obstacles throughout the season and earned their entrance into the state tournament.”