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SoCalHoops High School & Recruiting News

Martin Iti Declared Athletically
Ineligible By CIF--(Sept. 12, 2000)

In two separate stories in today's LA Times Orange County Edition and the Orange County Register, sportswriters Ben Bolch and Steve Fryer both report that Martin Iti has been declared ineligible to play for Villa Park as a result of a CIF Bylaw-imposed sanction for providing false or misleading information to school officials concerning his eligibility.

An investigation into Iti's academic records has reportedly revealed that Iti attended the 10th grade in Australia before coming to the US, rather than only the 9th grade, as Orange Unified School District officials were first informed. Iti (6'-11" Jr. C) is one of the top big men in the current junior class.   He was at last weekend's USC-Colorado football game, and is attracting all kinds of attention from just about every major program in the country.  His skills are still somewhat raw, but he is extremely talented and has a huge upside with great athleticism and agility.  Most recently, he has played with BWBA and last spring played with one of the Double Pump travel teams.  He spent the summer playing only for his Villa Park High School team at various tournaments including the Big Time and the Las Vegas Grand Finale.

Whether Iti attended 9th or 10th grade in Australia before coming to the US is significant, separate and apart from the additional "false information" one-year ineligibility penalty which was imposed yesterday.     Under CIF Bylaws, a player has only 8 consecutive semesters on his eligibility "clock" and that "clock" begins to run when a student first enters the 9th grade.   There are several "hardship" exceptions to the rule, but if Iti did in fact attend the 10th grade in Australia, that would mean he has only one more year of eligibility remaining. 

In other words, without the sanction imposed yesterday, even though Iti was only academically a junior, he still would have been a "senior" for athletic eligibility purposes this season, and thus would not have been able to play next year.  But with the one-year sanction imposed for providing allegedly false information, Iti's eligibility is effectively ended unless the school principal grants an appeal (which neither media story mentioned, but which would be the next step in the CIF administrative process).  If a the school principal does not grant an appeal, Iti's next step would be to appeal to the Orange Unified School District, then to the Southern Section of the CIF, and then to the State CIF Office and Commissioner Jack Hayes who are the court of last resort, at least from an administrative process within  the structure of the CIF.

According to Fryer's story, Villa Park principal Fran Roney, imposed CIF Southern Section by-laws (specifically Bylaw 200 (E), quoted below) as required, to declare Iti ineligible for one calendar year (beginning last month).  The Orange Unified School District announced its decision by sending a letter to Iti's attorney Lais, stating it determined that Iti, has already used up seven of his eight semesters of athletic ability.  According to Fryer's story, the letter also stated that Iti "provided false information to the school district regarding his academic history." The district's letter stated that Villa Park has determined that Iti attended "10th grade'' in Australia before he moved to the United States in 1998 and enrolled as a freshman. 

The exact details of how Iti's information on his transcripts was falsified are somewhat sketchy and remain for the moment shrouded in claims by Iti and his guardian, Courtney Rosegreen, that "someone" allegedly tampered with Martin's transcripts after they were sent from Dulwich High School in Australia (where Martin attended school before coming to the US) to the New South Wales Department of Education.  From there, the records were evidently sent to the US schools.  

According to the Times story, Iti told Orange School District officials during an August 3 meeting that he was in the 9th grade when he left Australia, not the 10th grade. Thus, someone is not telling the truth, and either the records have been tampered with, or, according to the inference in the Times' story, Iti gave innacurate information.  Evidently, the school district has determined that they would go with the written records and imposed the sanction against Iti for attempting to provide false information.

The Times' story also indicates that the records upon which the OUSD officials relied may not be entirely trustworthy.   According to Bolch's story, "the letter also stated that a second document from Dulwich High 'indicates there was some editing of Martin Iti's school records which was not done by Dulwich High School and was possibly edited by the New South Wales Department of Education.'"  

According to the Times' story, Lais, who also represents Iti's guardian, Courtney Rosegreen, said he "intends to challenge the decision," and he further has suspicions that Iti's school records were altered.to reduce Iti's remaining eligibility.  "[The editing] suggests to me that someone is pressuring the school district to change the records so that Martin would be able to only have one semester of eligibility left," Lais told the Times.

Fryer had a bit more information and some speculation about how and why Iti's records may have been altered, suggesting that the alteration may have occurred when Iti's mother attempted to transfer Iti's guardianship to the sister of Iti's former coach in Australia, the obvious inference being the   alteration occurred (if at all) as a part of a scheme to get Iti declared ineligible in the US, thus forcing him to return to Australia (and presumably to his mother and his former Australian coach's care):

"A letter to OUSD director of child welfare and attendance Frank Boehler from Richard Symons, principal at Dulwich High School in Dulwich Hill, Australia, acknowledged that Iti's transcripts were changed because of a policy decision.

"Lais said if records were changed, he suspected Ed Smith, a youth basketball coach in Australia, was somehow behind it.

"Smith coached Iti in Australia. When Paraita [Iti's mother] decided to revoke the guardianship of Rosegreen last spring, because she was concerned when Iti's transfer in April from Servite to Villa Park put him in four schools in two years (he also attended schools in Colorado and Florida), she transferred the guardianship to Smith's sister, Nadja Bonhomme.

Iti will reportedly be in Superior Court this morning in Orange, attending a hearing on his own petition for emancipation.  He and his attorney told both newspapers that Iti's mother does not oppose the emancipation petition (which would effectively end her own petition to regain custody and revoke the guardianship of Rosegreen) but only so long as Iti remains enrolled at Villa Park.   Of course once he is declared an emancipated minor, whether and if he again changes schools will be a decision for him alone, and his mother will not have any say in the decision.

While not made expressly clear in either newspaper article, it appears that the Villa Park officials relied upon Bylaw 200 (E) (1) in imposing the one year ineligibilty sanction.  That section provides: 

E. STUDENT ELIGIBILITY - PENALTY FOR PROVISION OF FALSE OR FRADULENT INFORMATION

(1) If it is discovered that any parent, guardian, caregiver or student has provided false information in regards to any aspect of eligibility status on behalf of a student, that student is subject to immediate ineligibility for CIF competition at any level in any sport for a period of up to 12 calendar months from the date the determination was made that false information was provided.

Both stories can be accessed, at least for the meantime, at the above links.

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