Jewish HS team's appeal turned down

Updated: February 28, 2012, 3:54 PM ET
By Randy Jennings | ESPNDallas.com

An Orthodox Jewish high school basketball team from Houston is out of the playoffs after losing its appeal to change a state semifinal game time that conflicted with its observation of the Sabbath.

Robert M. Beren Academy filed an appeal to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools to change its Class 2A state semifinal game time against Dallas Covenant, scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday in Mansfield, southeast of Fort Worth.

The scheduled game time of the state final, 2 p.m. Saturday, would also have conflicted with the Jewish observation of the Sabbath (sundown Friday until sundown Saturday).

TAPPS director Edd Burleson could not be reached Monday by ESPNDallas.com, but he did speak to The New York Times about the decision.

"When Beren's joined years ago, we advised them that the Sabbath would present them with a problem with the finals," Burleson told the Times. "In the past, TAPPS has held firmly to their rules because if schedules are changed for these schools, it's hard for other schools.

"If we solve one problem, we create another problem."

There are 20 TAPPS state semifinals games (five classifications each for boys and girls) scheduled Friday at five locations in Mansfield and Fort Worth, with the earliest start time being 4:30 p.m.

Beren (23-5) learned Monday its appeal had been denied. Kerrville Our Lady from the Hills, a team Beren defeated in the state quarterfinal round, 69-42, will take Beren's place.

"I don't think it has anything to do with our school being Jewish,'' Beren basketball coach Chris Cole said. "We were well aware it could come to this. But one thing that gave us hope that our game time might be changed was a Seventh Day Adventist school had games rescheduled in a TAPPS state soccer tournament a few years ago.''

Cole, in his 10th season at Beren, said the reaction of his 11-player squad to Monday's denial of its appeal was one of shock, although he said the players had been cautioned to be prepared. He said there is still a feeling of hope that something could change. The team went through a light practice on Monday.

"I don't think moving games is impossible,'' Cole said. "We have spoken to other teams in the final four and the majority said it wouldn't be a problem if TAPPS moved the games. But there is no denying it would be an inconvenience.''

TAPPS is an organization independent of the state's University Interscholastic League, which governs the Texas' public schools with only a couple of private-school exceptions.

There are 197 TAPPS schools fielding boys basketball teams spread over five classifications. Class 2A, of which Beren is a member, is composed of 49 schools with enrollment between 59 and 107 students at the high school level.

Cole said regardless of how things turn out, he hopes this doesn't turn to be the end of Beren in TAPPS.

"I'm sure there will be discussions down the road, but I hope this doesn't lead to our leaving,'' said Cole. "We've enjoyed our time in TAPPS. We play schools that are a lot like us in size. The other schools have been great to work with. They have been respectful of our refusal to play on the Sabbath.''

Our Lady From The Hills, in fact, agreed to a time and site change in the state quarterfinal to accommodate Beren. In its district games, Beren was allowed to move Friday games to Thursday.

Prior to joining TAPPS two years ago, Beren played as an independent.

"One reason this is a big deal to many is no Orthodox Jewish team, from what we've heard, has ever won a state basketball championship,'' Cole said.

Randy Jennings covers high schools for ESPNDallas.com.