Synopses of 2002 Appeals Committee Decisions
Synopses of 2002 Appeals Committee Decisions[Note: Some appeals cases were assigned numbers and then dismissed or withdrawn before the Appeals Committee considered them – thus some appeals numbers are skipped below]
USSF Appeal No. 2002-1
Facts: At halftime of a game, a coach ran up to a referee and yelled at him about some calls. The referee also claimed that the coach hit him on the arm – the coach denied hitting the referee. The state association notified the coach that he was charged with referee assault, under USSF and state association rules. The hearing panel found insufficient evidence to support the charge of referee assault and instead found him guilty of referee abuse. The coach was suspended.
Decision: The panel UPHELD the appeal and lifted the suspension, based on the fact that the coach was never notified by the state association that he could be found guilty of referee abuse. His notice letter only stated that he was charged with referee assault. The panel found this to be a violation of due process, and given the number of months he had already been under suspension, the panel ruled that the state association’s decision should be reversed.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-2
Facts: After a game, a spectator/parent approached one of the referees and asked if he could “ask a question.” When the referee said yes, the parent shoved the referee and asked “is this a foul?” The parent was charged with referee assault under USSF Policy 531-9, as well as violation of several state rules pertaining to the behavior of spectators and parents. At the hearing, only one of the two game referees testified, and the parent was not allowed to directly question his only witness (but was allowed to ask the hearing panel to direct questions to the witness). The state suspended the parent for one year.
Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal, finding that there were no due process violations. The panel found that the testimony from the one referee was sufficient to support the charges, and that the parent’s witness testified fully. The panel noted that the parent had offered no indication that he was denied an opportunity to present evidence that would have been material to the case.
The panel also found that while USSF Policy 531-9 does not apply to parents or spectators, the state association rules under which the parent was charged do apply, and thus his suspension was valid.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-3
Facts: A coach was found guilty of using an ineligible player and falsifying rostering documents. The coach was suspended.
Decision: The state association, when asked to submit the record for the case, could not locate the file for the case. The state association agreed to concede the appeal, as it was unable to provide the required documents to the Appeals Committee, and thus the appeal was UPHELD.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-4
Facts: A player became upset with a referee, yelled obscenities at him, and the referee reported that the player grabbed him by the neck. The state association held a hearing, but the player did not appear, and the state suspended the player for five years. The player requested a new hearing, which the state granted, and the new hearing panel issued a brief statement that it had decided to “uphold the previous decision.” The state had no record of either hearing, as its tape machine was not working.
The relevant USSF policy calls for a five year suspension where an assault leads to “serious injuries.” The Appeals panel asked the state for a more detailed decision letter, as it found the one provided did not comply with USSF Bylaw 701, which requires a “written decision, with reasons.” The state submitted a new decision which provided little new information, except that it stated that the player had not denied anything the referee had said.
Decision: The panel UPHELD the appeal and lifted the suspension. The panel found that the state failed to provide sufficient explanation of its decision, both in its first draft and again when the panel asked for a revised decision. Thus, the panel could not sustain the suspension because it was unable to obtain an explanation from the state as to how or why it had reached its decision.
USSF Appeal Nos. 2002-5, 2002-7
Facts: A coach and a “team mom” were separately accused of allowing players to drink alcohol during a team holiday party, as well as on a team trip. The state association received letters from three sets of parents complaining that their daughters had been allowed to drink, and also making a number of other allegations, including that an injured player had been encouraged to play even though she was hurt, and that the coach and team mom were involved in a relationship. The state association notified the accused that they were each being charged with conduct “adverse to the best interests of soccer.” They sent along copies of the letters from the parents, but blacked out the parents’ and players’ names. Both of the accused were found guilty and were suspended.
Decision: The panel found a number of due process violations had occurred, and thus REMANDED the case for a new hearing by the state association. The due process violations included:
1.The notice was insufficient. While they were told what rules they were charged with, they were not told what possible consequences they might suffer, including a maximum penalty. They were also not told specifically what conduct formed the basis of the charges – was is merely the allegation that they allowed drinking? that they played an injured player? that they had a relationship?
2.The notice of witnesses was insufficient. Since the parents’ letters were being used against them, and some of the parents were testifying, the accused were entitled to know who authored the letters.
3.The accused were not given adequate opportunity to confront witnesses. One of the accused asked that a question be directed to a witness, was told that the question could come later, and then that opportunity never came.
4.The decision letter was insufficient. The letter merely stated that two rules were violated. It did not explain what conduct supported the charges or what the panel found to have happened.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-6
Facts: A club accused a former team administrator and coach of seven different violations relating to registration and documentation for players. The state association held a hearing, and instructed both sides to submit “any written material to be submitted to the panel” on the day before the hearing. The accused administrator submitted a large set of documents, organized in binders. The state association reviewed these binders, and determined that one of them, “Exhibit 9A,” should not be given to the hearing panel because it did not contain “evidence,” and was simply “argument.” The accused administrator was found guilty and suspended.
Decision: The panel REMANDED the case for a new hearing by the state association. The panel found that the state association had done a good job of holding the hearing, notifying the accused, etc. However, the panel felt it had no choice but to remand the case because the state association had violated USSF Bylaw 701(6), which states that a party to a hearing must be given “the right to call witnesses and present oral and written evidence and argument.” The panel found that the state association was not entitled to withhold Exhibit 9A from the hearing panel on the basis that it was “argument,” because Bylaw 701 states that the accused must be given the right to present “oral and written evidence and argument.” The panel ruled that the state must hold a new hearing within 60 days, but that the coach/administrator would remain under suspension during that time.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-8
Facts: In February 2002, a player on a U-12 team was found to be too old to play on the team, and his birth certificate was found to be forged. The coach was accused of being responsible for falsifying documents and playing an ineligible player. The coach admitted that he knew of a “potential problem” with the player’s age in October or November 2001, but didn’t learn until February 2002 that the player was truly too old – at which point the coach reported the problem to the state association. The coach was found guilty and suspended.
Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The coach’s main argument was that there was insufficient evidence to support a guilty finding. The panel found that the coach had not shown by “clear and convincing” evidence that the state had made a mistake. The panel noted that the coach had admitted knowing of a “potential problem” as early as October 2001.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-9
Facts: In a game in early December 2001, a coach got into a pushing match with the team manager, a parent of one of the team’s players. The team manager filed a complaint with the state association in March 2002 – three and one half months after the incident. The state association rules state that an alleged assault shall be reported within 72 hours of the incident. The state association accepted the complaint, found the coach guilty of assault, and suspended him.
Decision: The panel UPHELD the appeal and lifted the coach’s suspension on the basis that the complaint came much too late. The panel found that the extreme delay between the incident and the complaint was a violation of both state association rules and due process. The panel noted that it did not believe that the 72-hour rule needed to be applied “rigidly,” but that in this case the delay was so extreme as to be prejudicial to the accused.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-10
Facts: A league registrar and coach pled guilty in November 2001 to unlawfully possessing equipment used to counterfeit satellite television cards, and was placed on probation through November 2004. He reported his conviction to his league in December. In January 2002, the league processed his form, and in April 2002 the league’s attorney forwarded the information to the state association. The state submitted the information to its Risk Management committee, which determined that the registrar/coach should be suspended through November 2004, while he was on probation. The registrar coach requested a hearing, and the state association’s Risk Management Appeals committee found that the suspension was appropriate.
Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal. The appellant raised three arguments. First, he argued that the state association shouldn’t have even considered the issue, because the league never formally “requested” risk management review – the panel noted that the state rules gave the state association to review risk management issues without a request. Second, he argued that there was too great a gap between his report in December and the ruling in April – the panel found that this was simply administrative delay, and there was no evidence this was capricious. Third, he argued that the suspension was too long – the panel found no reason to question a suspension that coincided with the time period for which he was on probation.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-11
Facts: A coach who had too few players for a game played an unrostered recreational player during the game. Three weeks later, the coach reported this offense to his team’s association. After some dispute over which association should consider the offense (because the team was registered with one association but played in a league run by another association), a hearing was held and the coach was found guilty of playing an ineligible player. He was suspended for one year – the minimum suspension set forth in the rules. On appeal, the association’s executive committee shortened the suspension to 5 games plus community service. The coach appealed again to the state association – and the state association found that the suspension could not be shortened (because the rule called for a minimum one year suspension), and remanded the case back to the executive committee with instructions to apply the correct suspension. The executive committee reconsidered the case and ruled that the coach should be suspended for two years. Again, the coach appealed, and the state association reduced the appeal to one year. On appeal to USSF, the state association did not submit the record on time. When contacted by USSF, the state explained that the appeals scheduling letter had been misplaced. USSF revised the appeals schedule so that the coach still had the requisite 2 weeks to file his argument, but the state had only one week to respond, so that all documents were submitted within the normal time period required by USSF rules.
Decision: The panel DENIED the appeal, after considering a number of claims by the coach that he did not receive adequate due process. The coach’s claims, and the panel’s rulings, were as follows:
1.The coach complained that the state association submitted the record to USSF after the date it was due. The panel found that since the state submitted its responsive argument on an expedited basis, the appellant was not prejudiced.
2.The coach complained about the time delay between the time he reported his offense and the time of his hearing. The panel found that there were good administrative reasons for the delay, and noted that the holidays also intervened. The panel noted that the coach was not suspended during this interim, and concluded he was not prejudiced.
3.The coach complained that he could only call two witnesses, and that he was not allowed to question opposing witnesses directly. The panel found that he had not provided any evidence that he needed an additional witness or that the ruling would have been different. The panel also found that the state was entitled to enforce its rule requiring all questions to go through the hearing panel, because it enforced the rule equally against all parties.
4.The coach complained that his attorney could not attend his hearing, because of scheduling conflicts, and the league refused to reschedule. The panel noted that the coach had already been permitted to reschedule his hearing once, and that he was not entitled to another rescheduling simply because the lawyer he chose was not available.
5.The coach complained that the punishment was too severe. The panel noted that the suspension was for the minimum term allowed by the rule.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-12
Facts: An investigation found six of twelve player passes for a specific team were not in proper order. The team’s coach was asked to attend a hearing that would address the “irregularity of [team] passes.” The notice letter listed two state rules at issue: one that required “extreme care” when filling out player passes; another that required players to sign the passes. At the hearing, the panel added another charge – altering of player passes. The panel then found the coach guilty and suspended him for three years.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal, and REMANDED the case back to the state association. The panel based the decision on several grounds:
1.The coach received inadequate notice. While he was asked to attend a hearing that would address “irregularity” of team passes, the panel found he was not adequately notified of the seriousness of the charges or the risk he faced of being personally disciplined.
2.The hearing panel improperly added charges during the hearing process. The coach did not have adequate notice that he would be charged with altering player passes – this was not one of the rules originally cited to him in his notice letter.
3.The decision letter did not contain a sufficient explanation of the hearing panel’s ruling. The panel found that the decision contained “no discussion of what evidence was used . . . to support the conclusion, and, more importantly, contains no reference to any rule that prohibits or punishes the altering of player passes.”
USSF Appeal No. 2002-14
Facts: Player requested permission at beginning of season to transfer to another district’s team. The district denied player’s request, while granting other requests, based on a determination that the player had equivalent playing opportunities in its district, and that the other district team was no closer to the player’s home.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal. The panel found that the factors which the district used to assess the transfer request were “quite subjective,” and that the decision was arbitrary and capricious, since other very similar requests had been granted. The panel ruled that the player must be allowed to transfer.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-16
Facts: Player’s birth certificate was found to contain the wrong birth date. The state association suspended player for one year.
Decision: The panel REJECTED the appeal. The panel rejected player’s argument that the state should have provided a translator because his parents did not speak English – the panel found that the state association is not obligated to provide a translator. The panel also rejected player’s attempts to raise several factual issues, as the player could not show that there was absolutely no evidence to support the charges against him. Finally, the panel rejected player’s claim that the penalty was too severe, as the state association had pointed out that others with similar offenses had received longer suspensions.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-17
Facts: A district removed its commissioner from office after a hearing held pursuant to state association rules.
Decision: The panel REJECTED the appeal. The panel found that the appellant received adequate due process because there was a hearing at which he was able to present his case and to hear the charges and testimony against him. The panel rejected appellant’s argument that there needed to be “sworn” testimony and his citation to a court case involving the removal of a government employee – the panel noted that the state association hearing was not a court of law and the case did not involve employment. The panel also rejected appellant’s factual arguments, since the appellant did not meet his burden of proving there was absolutely no evidence to support the charges against him.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-19
Facts: A coach was charged with referee abuse when a referee alleged that the coach and several team parents yelled offensive comments during a game.
Decision: The panel REJECTED the appeal. First, the panel rejected the coach’s argument that there was no evidence he assaulted the referee – the panel pointed out that he was charged with abuse, not assault, and that he did not meet his burden of showing there was absolutely no evidence to support the charges against him. Second, the panel rejected the coach’s argument that the penalty against him – a one year suspension – was too severe, since the coach had not met his burden of showing the penalty was arbitrary or capricious.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-20
Facts: A player was released from a team through a form that he and his parents claimed they never signed. The coach of the team was charged with falsification of documents and involuntary release of a player (state rules prohibited release of a player without his/her consent). The hearing chairperson had several phone conversations with the coach before the hearing to schedule the hearing, and sent the coach the letter of complaint by the player’s parents.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal, finding that the coach did not receive due process because he did not receive written notice of the charges against him and possible consequences if found guilty. The panel rejected the state association’s argument that the coach had adequate notice because the chairperson spoke with him on the phone – USSF Bylaw 701 specifically requires that notice of the hearing be “in writing.”
USSF Appeal No. 2002-21
Facts: Coach was charged with misconduct for swearing at a referee. The notice letter to the coach informed him of the charges and stated that he could be suspended for a “minimum 3-game suspension.” The coach did not appear for his hearing, but sent in a letter explaining his position. He was found guilty and suspended for 10 months.
Decision: The panel REJECTED the appeal. First, the panel rejected the coach’s argument that he was not adequately notified that he could be suspended for such a long period – the panel noted that he was simply informed of the “minimum” suspension, and that 10 months is “within the range of penalties” for which he was properly notified. Second, the panel rejected the coach’s argument that the penalty was excessive, since he had not met his burden of showing it was arbitrary or capricious. Third, the panel rejected the coach’s argument that he was denied due process because he was not at the hearing. The panel noted that the coach never requested that the hearing be rescheduled or suggested he could attend at another time, and the state association was not obligated to reschedule in the absence of such a request.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-22
Facts: Coach was charged with two counts of referee abuse, as well as misconduct, for approaching referee after a game, pointing his index finger at the referee with his thumb raised, and threatening to “pop” the referee in the head. The referee alleged that the coach continued to move toward him and threatened him again. The state association sent a notice letter indicating that the coach could face a “minimum” 3 game suspension for each violation. The state then suspended the coach for 20 months.
Decision: The panel REJECTED the appeal. The panel rejected the coach’s argument that he was not properly notified that he could face such a long suspension. The panel noted that he was simply informed of the “minimum” suspension, and further that USSF referee abuse rules allowed a separate suspension for each violation, and allow the state to attach a more severe penalty than the minimum where “circumstances warrant.” The panel also found that the coach had not met his burden of showing the penalty was so severe as to be arbitrary or capricious.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-23
Facts: Coach was charged for misconduct when he refused to stay in the coaching area, then was ejected from the game and refused to leave the playing field. The state association’s notice letter indicated that he could be suspended for a “minimum 3-game suspension.” The coach was suspended for one year.
Decision: The panel REJECTED the appeal. First, the panel rejected the coach’s argument that he was not adequately notified that he could face a one year suspension – the panel noted that the 3-game suspension mentioned in the notice letter was a “minimum.” Second, the panel rejected the coach’s complaint that he was not allowed to call in to the hearing (which he did not attend) – the panel noted that the coach never requested that the hearing be rescheduled. Third, the panel rejected the coach’s complaint that the referee report was not filed until 5 days after the game, instead of within 48 hours (as required in state rules) – the panel found that there was evidence the report had been mailed the day after the match, and further that the delay in question did not improperly prejudice the coach.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-24
Facts: During a game, when a player from the opposing team was hurt and being tended to, a coach was overheard by several opposing team parents and the opposing coach to yell “drag the player off the field.” The coach claimed he simply asked if the team needed help getting the player off the field. The coach was found guilty of misconduct.
Decision: The panel REJECTED the appeal. The panel found that the coach had only raised questions of fact and credibility of witnesses. The panel found that as long as there was some evidence in the record to support the charges, it could not consider the coach’s arguments that all the witnesses who testified against him were not credible or were biased. The panel did note that the state association should have made an effort to have the referee present at the hearing, but found that the referee’s absence did not constitute a failure of due process in this case.
USSF Appeal No. 2002-26
Facts: A coach for a team showed up for a game without his coaching pass, and thus allowed his assistant coach to coach the game. The coach watched from the sidelines (with spectators) and was verbally abusive to the referee. The referee did not realize the coach was anything more than a spectator, although the referee did warn the coach at one time to back away from a player doing a throw-in. After the game, a number of paperwork problems were identified for the team. The coach was charged with referee abuse, accountability, use of an ineligible player, and falsification of documents. The coach was automatically suspended for the charge of use of an ineligible player. After a hearing, the state association suspended the coach for one year.
Decision: The panel GRANTED the appeal, and lifted the suspension immediately, based on a number of concerns, as follows:
1.There was no evidence that the coach was serving as coach for this game. The referee admitted that he did not realize he was anything more than a spectator. Thus, he should not have been held responsible for paperwork issues.
2.The coach should not have been suspended automatically, without a hearing, for use of an ineligible player. Although state rules provide for such an automatic suspension, USSF due process rules do not allow for suspension without a hearing except in the case of referee assault.
3.The charge of referee abuse was improper. The USSF policy defining abuse requires some sort of implied or actual threat to the referee – there was absolutely no evidence of any such threat.