HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — UPDATE: The AHSAA responded to Governor Kay Ivey's questions about Oakwood Academy's forfeit of their regional semi-final game. The Oakwood Academy Boys Basketball Team forfeited after the AHSAA did not allow a change in game time that would have allowed the team to play without breaking their Sabbath.
In the response, Alvin Briggs, Executive Director of the AHSAA, responded to Governor Ivy's email about denying the Mustangs request to change time for the regional semi final basketball game. According to Coach Briggs, he says when Oakwood joined the association, they agreed to follow all the rules of the Alabama High School Athletic Association and agreed to participate in all playoff games without petition, or forfeit. Briggs continued to say that the answer is a response did not violate any Association rules. He cited that the Association was simply standing with the agreement made between themselves and Oakwood Academy.
UPDATE: Governor Kay Ivey send letters in support of the Oakwood Academy Boys Basketball Team to AHSAA and Oakwood Academy.
In the letter to AHSAA, Ivey asked for answers to a number of question, including if the public information is accurate, which AHSAA employees were responsible for the decision, and if the decision to deny Oakwood Academy a religious accommodation violated and AHSAA policies.
She also send a letter of support to Oakwood Academy:
A local basketball team is putting religion and their beliefs first instead of playing in a history-making sporting event during their time of the Sabbath.
Oakwood Academy is having a banner year. This season, the Mustangs won 13 games, beat Skyline in the sub-regional, and advanced to the AHSAA Northeast Regional semifinal round for the first time in school history.
Senior Raynon Andrews says, "The team has worked very, very hard this WHOLE season. We've had Covid-19 issues, teammates leaving, and no home games. It's been a lot and it's been a tough season. God's been moving in ways that we can't see..."
But the spectacular season for the Christian-based school came to an end because of a religious reason. Oakwood was scheduled to play Faith Christian at 4:30 p.m on. Saturday. But there's one problem.
Oakwood is a Seventh-Day Adventist school and due to the sabbath, the members of its church do not engage in physical activity from sundown on Friday to sundown Saturday. School officials like Calvin Morton have been trying to get the AHSAA Executive Board to switch the game time in respect to their sabbath.
That 7:30 p.m. game slot is currently held by Decatur Heritage and Cornerstone Christian. According to Morton, those schools verbally agreed on a move but the Alabama High School Athletic Association did not.
Morton says, "It's very frustrating. We're not asking to change a venue. We're not asking them to change a date. We just asking them to change a 4:30 time to a 7:30 time to accommodate our religion and our faith. The sun sets at 5:30 PM on February 19th, 2022. They're doing what they think is best for them which is not approving our request. We will keep doing what we can do to help this for years to come."
As of Friday at 5:30 p.m., the ASHAA did not change its decision and the Mustangs forfeited. It's an unfortunate situation for guys like Raynon Andrews, a senior who helped build this program into a winner, but he doesn't see it as a forfeit. Instead, he and the Mustangs view it as a "stand for faith"
Andrews, a senior forward, says, "This can be something bigger in our future. So we are instilling this now saying we're not playing in our state tournament game because of our belief. There could be a bigger event in our life but we already have this and stood on this when we younger"
Toussaint Williams, Associate Pastor of Oakwood University Church, adds, "This is a character building experience where the young people recognize where basketball is not just life and it's a part of life. But it's not the only element where they can grow and develop."