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Bending the boundaries

Some high school teams and programs are caught for violations

Posted: August 5, 2009 9:57 p.m.
Updated: August 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
In early January, Canyon High girls basketball head coach Stan Delus was insistent that he did nothing wrong.

But weeks before, as he stood on a ladder painting the inside of the Valencia High gymnasium, Valencia High girls basketball head coach Jerry Mike insisted he knew Delus was up to something.

Mike long suspected the travel ball coach of overstepping CIF-Southern Section rules to get travel ball players to come to Canyon High.

Two players, Alexa Davison and Vanessa Aguilar, played for Rancho Cucamonga-based Finest Basketball Club — a club team with whom Delus was long associated.

Davison and Aguilar then transferred to Canyon prior to the 2008-09 season.

By January 15, Delus was out of a job at Canyon and the girls were returned to their proper schools after it was found that residency records had been falsified.

It was maybe the biggest case of how far a team will go to win with disregard for CIF-SS rules in the Santa Clarita Valley this decade.

Or is it?

In the case of Canyon girls basketball, people were caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

Delus picked up at least one of the girls and transported her to school.

One day after the Canyon situation came to light, Hart transfer Amanda Corona, another highly touted prep basketball player, was found to have her residency falsified. She was immediately taken off the Hart team, though no one at the school was found to have aided her rule-breaking transfer from Grant High in Van Nuys.

But to think that all high school programs are squeaky clean would be like believing Pinocchio never told a lie.

The Signal recently polled a group of Santa Clarita Valley coaches on matters of ethics.

They had varying opinions on topics such as players receiving preferential treatment and cheating.

One said recruiting was a problem. Another coach said there is too much focus on winning. One coach said a problem is some coaches see their job as a “talent scout” rather than a teacher.

The biggest issue right now for the CIF-Southern Section, said the organization’s director of communications Thom Simmons, is club coaches swaying kids away from their home high school to another high school.

Simmons said the organization is paying attention to kids who are transferring to schools because of this issue.

But the Southern Section office is not large.

With 16 people working there, Simmons said the organization relies on the schools to police themselves.

Nonetheless, if it comes down to it, the Southern Section will investigate an issue if there is concrete evidence of wrongdoing.

But there are misconceptions as to some of the rules.

People have accused programs of recruiting when a ninth-grader transfers to another school in the district, or if an incoming freshman does not go to the closest high school to his or her home.

According to rule No. 207 of the CIF-SS Blue Book, “A student may transfer eligibility provided the student moves from any school to a CIF school due to a family decision to transfer the student prior to the first day of the student’s third consecutive semester (typically the first semester of the sophomore year) of attendance since the initial enrollment when the following conditions are met ...”

There are six conditions, which include that the child is not transferring as a result of disciplinary reasons and that the child is in good standing academically.

The 571 schools under the CIF-Southern section are expected to abide by its goals and beliefs.

The organization has worked with the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based center for youth ethics, to develop its ideals, which includes, “character counts.”

Character counts is based on six pillars of character — trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

Members of the CIF-SS are taught about character counts, and the message is then passed along to coaches and school administrators in a yearly meeting.

The Josephson Institute does surveys on youth ethics and is currently conducting one specifically tailored to sports.

Daniel Wheeler, manager of pursuing victory with honor for the Josephson Institute, said the results are not ready to be released, but some of the comments he has seen thus far include responses that have to do with unethical behavior.

“An overwhelming response from coaches in the free response range had to do with parents and spectators encouraging athletes to do stuff they’re not supposed to do to get the upper hand,” Wheeler said. “Building up the foul lines in baseball, running up the scores, unfair playing time, preferential treatment to star athletes.”

The Signal asked 10 coaches from different sports whether or not “star athletes” receive preferential treatment.
Four responded, “Yes.”

However, Valencia head football coach Larry Muir said he was harder on one particular star athlete: former quarterback Michael Herrick, the state’s all-time passing yardage leader.

“I always told him I’d be harder on him and unfair to him more than anyone else,” Muir said. “He was the star, the quarterback, all that stuff. It was critical for rest of the players that I was a bigger jerk to him than the other players.”

Coaches were also asked whether a star player would be eligible for the following game/meet/match if they missed practice without a valid excuse.

All the coaches said they would sit the player.

All the coaches, except for one, said if a player was caught cheating or with alcohol or drugs, he or she would be thrown off the team.

One coach said he had a player who was caught with alcohol. That player was transferred to another school for a semester, then returned to his school and was allowed to play for his team.

“They did their punishment and was transferred for a semester,” the coach responded. “The player, however, is under tight scrutiny for the entire season and future.”

Canyon High boys basketball head coach Chad Phillips, who was not polled, had a player who was caught with alcohol earlier this decade at a school function and was then transferred to another school.

Phillips allowed the player, a starter the year before, to rejoin the team.

That player did not start upon his return and was not allowed to rejoin the squad until after the Foothill League season began.

Phillips said the kid deserved a second chance.

And to those who disagree with his decision: “Every young teenager has to go through a trial and error period to figure out what’s right and wrong. Thank God we have quality mentors and coaches able to look across that fine line of ‘You’re gone (from the team)’ and give them a second chance.”

To Phillips, a second chance had nothing to do with wins, but more to do with helping a young man learn from a mistake.
The issues are many in high school sports and difficult to police.

Some of the issues are publicized. Most are swept under the rug or are kept in-house.

The bottom line is, its up to each school to monitor itself.

As we’ve learned, that doesn’t always work.

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