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NCAA to hear appeal for women's hoopster

TAMPA, Fla. -- The University of South Florida will ask the
NCAA to grant an exemption to its uniform policy and allow a Muslim
player to wear Islamic clothing on the basketball court.

Andrea Armstrong, a Muslim convert, said she left the team and
lost her athletic scholarship last week after her coach told her
she could not wear religiously mandated clothing during practices
or games. She wanted to wear long pants, a top with long sleeves
and a head scarf.

School officials said Armstrong voluntarily left the team and
was not pressured to do so.

In a meeting Friday involving Armstrong, the university and the
Council on American-Islamic Relations, officials agreed the team
would accommodate her Islamic attire and reinstate her scholarship.
The university also agreed to work with the NCAA on this matter.

"An athlete should not be asked to choose between engaging in
healthy sporting activities and her deeply held religious
beliefs," said Ahmed Bedier, who took part in the meeting as
Florida spokesman for CAIR.

"She is a valuable member of the team," added university
spokeswoman Michelle Carlyon.

The NCAA's basketball rule book devotes five pages to uniforms
but does not address religious issues. All players are required to
wear the same uniform.

The NCAA offices in Indianapolis were closed Saturday, and calls
to an NCAA spokesman were not immediately returned.

Other team members said they had no problems with Armstrong's
conversion.

"We're not going to judge her by that," sophomore Rachel
Sheats said.

Armstrong, 22, said she did not think her clothing would
distract players or hamper her ability on the court.

At Towson University in Maryland, star player Tamir Goodman, an
Orthodox Jew, wore a yarmulke on the court and did not play on the
Jewish Sabbath. At the Athens Olympics, several female athletes
wore head scarves.