Walt Hamera looks at the Laguna Beach High School athletic department with a touch of sadness.
He wonders why in the past six months the familiar faces who have been the very foundation of the school's athletic program have become so disillusioned that they have decided to resign as coaches of their various sports.
He wonders why school board officials have taken a rather unusual approach to the problem of funding and administering his programs.
But most of all, he wonders about the future of Laguna Beach High School sports.
Hamera, the school's athletic director since 1978, has resigned his position effective June 21. Dennis Haryung, the football coach, and Craig Falconer, the basketball coach, also have resigned. Full time staff coaches Mike Roche (football), Tom Purdy (football), Norm Borucki (softball), Ron Ross (girls' tennis) and Art Wahl (boys' tennis)--the men who endured through years of losing seasons and/or little support--also will not return next fall to coach, though all will remain at the school as instructors.
Because seven of the school's 11 full time coaches won't return, 32 of 43 teams at Laguna Beach High School next school year will be handled by walk-on coaches, or non-faculty instructors.
Hamera claims the Artists have reached the point of no-return. The coaches cited a lack of support from the district, an influx of walk-on coaches and the inability to continue to operate their programs on a competitive level because of a lack of funds as their reasons for leaving.
The athletic department's share of the budget this school year dropped to a point where there was no longer money for trainers, equipment, uniforms or even towels for students to shower following practice.
Athletic teams, which have operated without a budget from the district for seven years, once survived on student participation fees. But the California Supreme Court ruled in the 1980 Santa Barbara decision that such fees were illegal, cutting a viable source of funding. The difficulties were compounded to the point where the Artists' 1984-85 athletic program was faced with a $12,000 deficit.
The Laguna Beach Unified School District, however, is facing a half-million dollar deficit for the the 1984-85 school year. Like most school districts in the state, Board of Education members needed to find ways to reduce the budget. They believe their methods will make for a stronger program in the future, and save the taxpayers money. Board of Education members claim alternative funding from the community must be used or athletics will be eliminated at the high school.
But some coaches charge the school board's forms of cost reductions are unusual.
Clearly, the battle lines have been defined. The coaches who have the job of implementing the new measures under the belt-tightening guidelines say the system won't work. Board members and administrators claim they have found a cost-efficient formula to save Laguna Beach athletics.
Hamera, an 11-year staff member, raised questions about the operation of the sports program over the past six months including:
- The hiring by the school board of Cedrick Hardman, a former National Football League star, as Haryung's replacement in which boosters and parents brought a petition to Dr. Robert Hughes, Laguna's principal, urging that he hire Hardman.
- The adoption of a 12-member task force recommendation that all funds for equipment, awards, supervision, entry fees and officials' fees must be provided by booster funds. The school board also approved a task force recommendation that an appointed official from the booster club represent each sport to determine how much money each sport should be allocated. Members of the community, booster club, coaching fraternity and school board served on the task force.
The coaches who quit say they fear a strings-attached sentiment when boosters are allowed to raise and control funds for the school's teams. The coaches also point to a $200 gift that was given to each coach following last season, which is illegal under the California Interscholastic Federation by-laws.
- The school board's approval that all preseason sports would be conducted under the auspices of Laguna Enrichment And Resource Network (LEARN), a non-profit organization set up three years ago to supplement the high school's programs in the wake of budget cuts. The LEARN summer sports camps will be directed by Gene Gravley, a Laguna Beach resident who had promoted sports camps in the area for the past three years.
The board acted on a recommendation by the task force of which Gravley served as the chairman and then resigned after he was hired as director of LEARN. But Gravley continued to serve on the task force, which some believe was a conflict of interest. Gravley denies there was a conflict of interest because of his association with LEARN.