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SoCalHoops High School News

Sylmar vs. LAUSD:  Can It Get Any Worse?--(Feb. 11, 2004)

Sylmar High School's troubles with the LAUSD City Section Office continued today, as Section officials forgot to send qualified referees to Sylmar's game this afternoon against San Fernando High.   According to sources, the assigning of referees is handled by Section Assistant Commissioner Jeff Halpern, and Bob Mozee, the area assignor.    Halpern is the same Section official who had earlier informed Sylmar that no appeal could be taken from the Section's decision that Sylmar had to forfeit a number of league games because it had forgotten to list a player on their official roster submitted to the Section office.

In the world of hoops, when two players on two different teams commit fouls at the same time, offsetting penalties are assessed.   Yet what is good for the goose is evidently not always sauce for the gander (or something like that) when it comes to interpretation and application of the IAC Rules.  When the Section office forgets to send refs to a game, that ought to clearly remind everyone that we're dealing with real people, and that real people make mistakes.   And when they do, sometimes those mistakes oughto to be forgiven, and waivers granted.    Unless that is, you're the IAC Rules Committee, in which case, you don't grant waivers.  Instead, you uphold a "system,"  you hold off the Mongol hordes at the wall, you batten down the hatches, and you hold kids accountable and responsible for things over which they have no control.

Seriously, there is more than a little irony in all of this, especially when one considers the grounds upon which the City Section Rules Committee decided to deny Sylmar's initial appeal yesterday.  What were those grounds?    You're not going to believe it, so we'll just say it now:   "Safety" and the integrity of the "system." 

That's right. 

Safety.  System.

Seriously, the City Section Rules Committee's decision was grounded upon upholding "the system" which requires three signatures on the roster form.  Those three signatures, according to the ruling, "should have provided the opportunity for the error to be found."    But why is this "system" of submitting a form important?

"Safety."

Yup.  We're not kidding.   Filing a piece of paper will make us all safer.  It will prevent basketball players from spraining their ankles.  It will prevent fouls.  And goodness knows, if anyone gets on a bus to travel to a game (does LAUSD still have busses?  Can they afford them?), we wouldn't want to muck up the insurance situation, would we.  

Honest to goodness, we've read the IAC Rules Committee's decision several times over, and while there is a lot of puffing, and huffing about this and that almighty "system" of forms and checks and balances, about why the form is supposed to be filled out correctly and submitted on time,  there is not a single word which seems to suggest any common nexus between a missing name on a form and student safety.  Not a word.

Now, in our book, when an administrator negligently fails to send qualified referees to a regularly schedule high school athletic contest which has been on the schedule for more than 6 months, that, in a word, is "unsafe."

And to top it off, when the City Section forgot to send the refs,  the Sylmar vs. San Fernando game had to be officiated by a teacher and a parent, both of whom were recruited out of the stands so the two teams could actually hold a game.    Seriously, we kid you not.   As one observer who attended the game remarked to us later, "They should have moved the game to the local rec & park gym, because everyone would have been more comfortable playing in that environment with a parent and teacher refereeing the game."

If this whole thing wasn't so pathetic, it might be funny.    But it's just too ridiculous and getting more so by the day. 

Sylmar has one more shot at an appeal on Friday morning.   The appeal is supposed to be held before a neutral, disinterested third party,   by one or more hearing officers who have no connection with, and who have not discussed the matter with any of the members of the Rules Committee.  It is supposed to be a true de novo evidentiary hearing.     We'll see what really happens.

In the meantime, for those of you who are interested in what the Rules Committee actually determined, we've reproduced below the text of the CIF Los Angeles City Section's decision [with emphasis added]. 


CIF LOS ANGELES CITY SECTION
Los Angeles Unified School District
Office of Interscholastic Athletics
213-745-1980
______________________________________________________________________________________________________

February 11, 2004

To:           Gary Gray, Assistant Principal
                Sylmar High School

From:     Barbara Fiege, Director
                 Interscholastic Athletics

Subject:   IAC RULES COMMITTEE DECISIONS

On February 10, 2004, the Rules Committee, a sub-committee of the Interscholastic Athletic Committee, at its regularly scheduled meeting, met to hear an appeal of the implementation of IAC Rule 3-1-5 regarding "Certification of Eligibility" and IAC Rule 142 regarding playoffs for the Sylmar High School Boys' Varsity Basketball team.  The appeal was lodged due to the fact that two boys' basketball players' names were left off of the eligibility rosters, one  varsity player and one junior varsity player.  This error has cause the forfeiture of seven varsity basketball games and seven junior varsity basketball games.   After reviewing the paperwork, hearing the presentation, and asking pertinent questions, the Committee made the folllwing decision:

MSP     to deny the appeal of implementation of IAC Rules 301-5 and 142.

In making the decision to deny the appeal of implementation of IAC Rule 301-5 regarding the fact that students who are left off of the roster after the deadline date are determined to be ineligible, it was the determination fo the Rules Committee that the system which requires three signatures on the document is appropriate and should have provided the opportunity for the error to be found by school personnel.  Please be aware that the eligibility roster is the means by which the school and the District can be ensured that all student athletes have submitted the paperwork necessary to determine both their safety and their eligibility.

In making the decision to deny the appeal of the implementation of the IAC Rule 142, it was determined that unless the two schools that will have finished ahead of Sylmar in the final league standings are placed in the City Championship bracket, the Seeding Committee would not have the authority to seed Sylmar, the third place team, ahead of either of the other two teams whose league records were better.  As per Rule 142, a team whith two or more forfeits that would have qualified for the upper division playoffs [City Championship], but does not, based on the win/loss record with the forfeits, will not be placed int he lower division, and will be kept out of the playoffs."

If there is a desire to appeal the decision of the Rules Committee, a request must be sent in writing to Bud Jacobs, Director, High School Programs, 323 S. Beaudry, 25th Floor.

Should you have any questions, or require additional information, I would be pleased to respond.

cc:    Linda Calvo
          Bob Miller
          Bort Escoto
          Sue Kamiyama


Hopefully, when the panel hears the next appeal this Friday, they will not miss the point of this entire exercise,  as the Rules Committee seems to have done with it's wonderful exegesis above, which we could swear was supposed to have been written in English, but which might as well have been written in Swahili, because it makes absolutely no sense.  The "system" of form-filing?  That was never challenged, was never in issue.   Not at all.    That "system" was admitted, and the mistake was admitted.    Yet what the purports to uphold is the "system."    Really, we've read this decision over and over, and we have yet to find any part of it where they discussed any of the mitigating factors, any of the equitable considerations which come into play and which are required by IAC Rule 103-3 pertaining to "hardships" and relief from the effect of any CIF rule when the rationale for the existence of the rule is not being challenged, just it's effect in a particular circumstance.   In this case, it's almost as if the Rules Committee was somehow fearful that if they really did consider the criteria for a waiver, that there would be some kind of rush by every school in the Section to screw up in their form-filing requirements.  We can't really see any other rationale for the outright denial of the appeal on the grounds stated, other than that the Rules Committee simply didn't want to grant an appeal, indeed, didn't even want to hold a hearing in the first instance.

Perhaps the next appellate panel that hears the matter will focus on the criteria of Rule 103-3, and not the "system" of eligibility rosters.  Perhaps the next panel will focus on basic principles of fairness, equity and relief from forfeiture, a forfeiture in this case caused not by the acts of any student, caused by nothing more than the carelessness of a few adults, a set of circumstances which, in the real world  had absolutely no impact on any of the games played. 

Because--and one has to keep reiterating this point because it tends to get lost in all the verbiage-- the games in which the varsity player participated, the player whose name was omitted from the roster,  was at all times during those games, both academically and residentially eligible.   And under the State CIF Bylaws, academic and residential eligibility are the only two key prongs for determining eligibility for participation in interscholastic athletic.     Thus, if a student was really eligible under the State Bylaws, but is only later deemed to be ineligible by applying a pure fictional ineligibility as the result of applying a rule without any critical reasoning,  the seminal question raised is whether or not that student and his completely innocent teammates should be made to pay the price for the administrator's careless forgetfulness.  

In this case, it is a price which is being paid for in forfeited games, lost league titles, and banishment from the playoffs.

That's simply too high a price to pay for upholding a "system" of signatures on a form, a system which in reality has nothing to do with the "safety" of any student athlete.  

No one asked the Rules Committee to set aside it's system of forms.    No one challenged the purpose of submitting eligibility rosters.  There are probably some really good reasons to have such forms,    but they sure can't be the reasons cited in the decision above. 

It's going to be interesting to see how the next appeal this Friday turns out.   We can only hope that the next panel sees the real issue, and applies the real criteria of Rule 103-3, rather than ignoring those criteria entirely.

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