AUSTIN, Texas -- The University of Texas on Tuesday asked
the Texas Supreme Court to overturn two lower court rulings
involving a Longhorns swimmer it says could bring an onslaught of
lawsuits from student athletes.
Former Texas swimmer Joscelin Yeo filed suit against the university in
March 2002 when she found out she would not be allowed to compete
at the 2002 NCAA Championship meet. The four-time Olympic athlete
claimed Texas marred her reputation in her home of Singapore and
prevented her from pursuing sponsorships when it declared her ineligible to compete.
"They created a tremendous fiasco for this student who did
nothing wrong but try to swim and be a great student," said Diane
Henson, Yeo's attorney.
A Travis County court in 2002 and an appeals court in 2003 ruled
that Yeo could swim competitively after the university had
initially ruled she was ineligible after transferring from the
University of California at Berkley in 2000.
If the court overturns the rulings, Texas and Yeo both stand to lose.
The NCAA, under its restitution rules, could strip both of any
records, titles or championships won while Yeo was competing and
While at Texas, Yeo was a Big 12 champion, swam on two Big 12 championship winning teams and set the Big 12 record for the 200 individual medley. Yeo, who graduated in 2003, transferred from Cal-Berkeley in the fall of 2000.
Yeo did not attend classes at Texas in 2000 because she received a waiver to train for the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
NCAA rules require a one-year sit-out period for student
athletes who transfer from one school to another. The rule can be
waived, but officials at Berkeley refused to approve a waiver.
According to court filings, Texas officials told Yeo the time she
did not compete under the Olympic waiver would count toward the
one-year sit-out period.
However, nearly two years later, NCAA and Texas officials told Yeo
she was still ineligible.
Don Cruse, assistant Texas solicitor general, told the court the
state constitution does not protect a student athlete's right to
compete or to safeguard their reputation.
A ruling in favor of Yeo would require Texas colleges to examine
individual athletes' cases and leave schools open to last-minute
court orders forcing them to allow ineligible players to compete,
said Solicitor General Ted Cruz.
"Any approach that gives one student athlete greater legal
rights than another student athlete is fundamentally flawed, and it
results in the court having to entertain lawsuits to challenge
every eligibility determination," Cruz said.
The NCAA has also appealed lower courts' rulings prohibiting the
agency from joining the case against Yeo. Because the NCAA
regulates college athletic competition and sets the rules under
which UT officials decided Yeo was ineligible, the agency claims it
has a vested interest.
"This lawsuit is all about the NCAA, its rules and applying its
rules," said Linda Salfrank, NCAA attorney.