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Arland Bruce IV, still waiting on IHSAA eligibility ruling, asks court to get involved

Matthew Bain
Des Moines Register

While they wait for the Iowa High School Athletic Association to mail its ruling on Arland Bruce IV's eligibility appeal, the University of Iowa football recruit and his attorneys are taking their case back to the courts.

Bruce's attorneys filed on Tuesday a motion for an injunction that would both allow Bruce to play if he doesn't receive the IHSAA's ruling by Friday and — if the IHSAA does rule him ineligible again — allow Bruce to play while he appeals his eligibility in the Polk County District Court.

Brad Obermeier, one of Bruce's attorneys, told the Register they know a judge likely won't make any decision regarding the injunction until the IHSAA's ruling is revealed.

If the IHSAA rules Bruce eligible, Obermeier said they'll retract the motion. But if the IHSAA reaffirms his ineligibility, they want to already have a motion filed so they can get a hearing before Ankeny's Friday game against Council Bluffs Thomas Jefferson.

"The IHSAA has essentially left the Bruce family with zero options," Obermeier said, "except for to get in front of the court again, pending the outcome of this eligibility ruling."

Bruce's IHSAA eligibility appeal hearing was held last Thursday in Boone. Bruce and his attorneys hoped for a ruling to be emailed by Friday, following their appeal hearing in front of the IHSAA Executive Committee. The committee said it would make a decision within five days and, once that decision was made, it would mail the ruling to Bruce, who has watched Ankeny's first three games from the sidelines.

Ankeny High senior wide receiver and Iowa commit Arland Bruce IV (14) sits out the first game as the No. 7 Ankeny Centennial Jaguars battle against the No. 2 Ankeny Hawks in the first half of play at the JagHawk Bowl during the Class 4A season opener on Friday, August 28, 2020 at Ankeny Stadium.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Bruce had not yet received the mailed ruling.

Both IHSAA Executive Director Tom Keating and communications director Chris Cuellar have told the Register the IHSAA cannot comment on ongoing eligibility issues.

Bruce transferred to Ankeny from Olathe (Kansas) North in late August after his home county voted to postpone fall high school football because of the area's volume of COVID-19 cases. Ankeny approved Bruce's transfer Aug. 21.

On the morning of Aug. 28, however, the IHSAA informed Bruce and his mother, Linda Bruce, that Bruce did not meet eligibility requirements to play football this fall.

Attorneys representing Bruce filed a motion for an injunction the following Monday that would allow Bruce to play for Ankeny while he appealed the IHSAA's ruling. Later that week, Polk County District Court denied that injunction. In his ruling, however, Judge Robert Hanson recommended the association deem Bruce eligible.

Again, the IHSAA cannot comment on ongoing eligibility appeals, but Bruce and his attorneys have told the Register they believe the association based its ineligibility ruling on Bruce's family's living situation — specifically, that Bruce's two younger brothers still live with an uncle in Olathe.

Part of the IHSAA's transfer rules reads: "Interpreting the term 'residence' to allow for multiple residences would render the General Transfer Rule meaningless and this is not permitted as a tenant of statutory construction. ... Because there can only be one residence, the IHSAA must determine that the family in fact has only one residence."

Ankeny head football coach Rick Nelson; Bruce's mother, Linda Bruce; and the Bruce family's acting landlord in Ankeny spoke on Bruce's behalf at last Thursday's eligibility appeal hearing.

Nelson focused on how Bruce is attending school and practicing full-time at Ankeny and how, especially at this time in his life, team sports are so valuable. Obermeier said Nelson argued Bruce's situation does not appear different from other transfers who are currently eligible, and that Bruce, for whatever reason, is being singled out by the association. Travis Burk, Bruce's other attorney, said Nelson told the committee he would support Bruce playing no matter what school he attended.

"If Arland played at Dowling, he'd be in Arland's camp, too," Burk said last week.

Ankeny High senior tailback/wide receiver and Iowa recruit Arland Bruce IV (14) sits out a second game as the No. 2 Ankeny Hawks compete against the Waukee Warriors in the first half of play during Week 2 of the Class 4A game on Friday, September 4, 2020 at Waukee Stadium.

The family's landlord said although Linda Bruce's two younger sons still live with their legal guardian uncle in Kansas, she spends the vast majority of her time in Ankeny.

Linda Bruce told the committee about her intentions to stay in Iowa and bring her two other children to the state when Arland Bruce enrolls at Iowa this January.

"She feels she's being penalized for being honest and transparent, and she followed all the rules," Obermeier said last week. "But now, the rules apparently are being changed after the fact." 

Obermeier said much of the committee's questioning revolved around whether the Bruce family has dual residency in Ankeny and Olathe. Burk said he hopes the IHSAA's hesitation to rule Bruce eligible has nothing to do with the $100 per month rent Linda Bruce pays for her lease in Ankeny.

"She's actually paying $100. She pays it. The person she lives with could have put $1,000 (on the lease) and only charged $100, but here they are trying to be honest," Burk said last week. "And then what message are we trying to send? That if you're a single parent and don't have a lot of money, then we're going to punish your child? (But) if you have two parents and you have plenty of money to come sign a lease and pay $1,000 a month, then your kid gets to play?"

Bruce is a consensus three-star recruit who committed to the Hawkeyes over Iowa State, Tulsa and Western Illinois in late April. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder is the Register's No. 12 in-state 2021 prospect. He played quarterback at Olathe North, but he'll transition to receiver at Iowa.

At Ankeny, he would play both receiver and running back.

"Extremely quick. Can just really, really cut," Nelson said when the Register asked about Bruce after his first practice in August. "He made a couple cuts on an inside run today that was like, 'Whoa. OK, yep, I guess he’s going to Iowa.'"

Matthew Bain covers recruiting and pretty much anything else under the sports sun for the Des Moines Register and USA TODAY Network.  Contact him at mbain@dmreg.com and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.

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