Residents Raise Questions of High School Sports Recruiting

July 25, 1985|MARK HENRY | Times Staff Writer

Three residents have asked the Santa Monica-Malibu Board of Education to investigate whether Santa Monica High School basketball players are being recruited from outside the district and to determine whether members of the 1984-85 team lived outside it.

The recruitment of high school players would violate regulations of the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports. Attending school in the Santa Monica district while living in another would violate Santa Monica school policy, unless the student has a permit from the other district.

"Whether or not they (student athletes) are being brought in is open to investigation," Santa Monica resident Mark Harding told the board Monday night.

"We do believe there's recruiting going on," Harding said in an interview Wednesday. "We think there's enough circumstantial evidence to warrant an investigation."

Santa Monica High School basketball coach Cliff Hunter said Wednesday that he had "nothing to say," but School Supt. George Caldwell told the board Monday that to this point there has been "no foundation of any charge of recruitment by coaches."

Ray Plutko, commissioner of athletics for the CIF's southern section, said Wednesday that his office will investigate if called in.

John Lonsdale, associate executive director of the Boys' Club of Santa Monica, and resident Bob Goon also spoke at Monday session.

"Many of the Santa Monica kids have been denied the opportunity to play basketball," Lonsdale told the board. He said afterwards that he may hire a private investigator if the board fails to act.

Lonsdale said during the meeting that he believed that six of the eight varsity players on this year's highly rated team may have lived outside the district.

Goon said that his son, Steven, had played on Santa Monica's junior varsity team as a sophomore two years ago but decided not to try out for the varsity as a junior because he could not compete with a crop of exceptionally talented basketball players "who didn't even live in Santa Monica."

The school board did not act on the residents' requests, and board President Connie Jenkins later said the board has never received any proof that students were recruited or lived outside the district in violation of district policy.

Jenkins last week asked for independent verifications of the addresses of Santa Monica High School athletes beginning this fall. The board did not act on her request but she has expressed confidence that her colleagues will support her when she reintroduces the request in the fall.

She has said, however, that she has little interest in investigating past basketball teams.

"I don't care to have a secret police force for the district," she said.

Jenkins and board member Robert Holbrook met earlier this month with two students who said several players did not live in the district. Lonsdale and Goon, who also attended the private meeting, said one student indicated that several team members had returned to homes outside of the district at the end of the day.

The residences of four of the players were scrutinized by Los Angeles school officials earlier this year. Counselors who visited the Santa Monica addresses of the four "raised serious questions as to whether a valid address had been established," said Paul Godfrey, a Los Angeles school district administrator. He added that the counselors felt the "youngsters were really living at two addresses or a cover-up address." Los Angeles officials plan no further action, he said.

"As far as we're concerned, the ball's in Santa Monica's court," Godfrey said. "If they decide there's no game, that's where it is."

Jenkins said she found the Los Angeles report inconclusive. Santa Monica high school officials have said the players' addresses were verified. Caldwell has said he will send students letters that "are going to make a particular point that you must be a legal resident" of the school district to attend school there.

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