Thou Shalt Not Recruit an Athlete…..

Coach Burkhart challenged the constitutionality of two UIL rules.  The UIL District Executive Committee (DEC) found the coach guilty of recruiting an athlete. The State Executive Committee (SEC) affirmed that decision, and the coach sued the UIL and the members of the SEC. 

BURDEN OF PROOF.  The UIL does not carry the burden of proof in DEC or SEC hearings.  Section 410 of the UIL Constitution puts the burden of proof on the party accused of violating a rule.  The rule says that the burden “to disprove the allegations at issue rests with the member school, member school district or covered school district personnel charged with the violation.” (Emphasis added). Isn’t that un-American?  Unconstitutional? 

The court held that the UIL’s take on burden of proof was perfectly OK. That’s because the burden shifts to the employee only “after a prima facie violation is found.”  Let me quote Rule 409 more completely:

If a DEC or the SEC determines that a complaint or report of a violation has enough validity or substance to hold a hearing, the burden by the preponderance of the evidence to disprove the allegations at issue rests with the member school, member school district or covered school district personnel charged with the violation.

The court viewed the decision to hold a hearing as a “prima facie” finding that the complaint has merit.   Under those circumstances, putting the burden on the complaining party to “disprove” the allegations is acceptable. It’s not unconstitutional. Is it un-American? The Dawg will not chew that bone.

VAGUENESS.  The coach also challenged the definition of “recruiting” in Rule 409 of the Constitution: 

Recruit: to encourage a student in any way to change schools for the purpose of participating in UIL activities at any grade level. It could include offering a student or the student’s parent cash, waiver of tuition, board or lodging, transportation, promise of better conditions at the participant school or on its team, a job or other valuable consideration to induce the student to enroll in a participant school. 

Would you describe yourself as a person of “common intelligence”? If so, can you understand what behavior that definition covers?  This matters because the court noted that a statute is unconstitutionally vague when “men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning.”  I always think of the effort of some state a few years ago (it was either Montana or Wyoming) to set its highway speed limit at a “reasonable and prudent speed.”  “Men of common intelligence” would have to guess at how that translates to a number. So would women.

In this case the court found the definition of “recruiting” to be good enough to pass muster.  Case dismissed and the coach’s three-year suspension from coaching stands.  It’s Burkhart v. UIL, decided by the federal district court for the Western District of Texas on April 13, 2023, and is located at 2023 WL 2940026.


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Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!