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Used Players From Outside District; South Bay Schools to Inherit Titles : Santa Monica Forfeits 47 Basketball Victories

September 26, 1985|JAMES RAINEY | Times Staff Writer

Santa Monica High School has forfeited all of its victories in varsity basketball for the past two seasons because at least one player each year used a false address to attend the school, Principal Terry Pearson announced this week.

The school's record, which stood at 47-7 for the two years, will drop to 0-54. Representatives of the Bay League, of which Santa Monica is a part, are expected to strip the school of its league championships for those years at a meeting next month.

Palos Verdes High School, runner up in the 1983-84 season, and West Torrance High School, runner up in 1984-85, will be declared Bay League champions.

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section executive committee is expected to review Santa Monica's forfeitures, according to spokesman Dean Crowley. "If the (executive committee) thinks anything is not proper then they can recommend further action," Crowley said.

Questions about the Santa Monica team were first raised this spring by former players, some of whom met privately with two school board members and reportedly told them that the majority of the 1984-85 team lived outside of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, in violation of the state education code. The law prohibits students without special permits from living in one school district and attending school in another.

'Serious Questions'

Some former players have told The Times that some athletes believed that they would be seen by college scouts if they played for Santa Monica, thereby increasing their chances of winning athletic scholarships.

Officials in the Los Angeles Unified School District last spring investigated reports that four Santa Monica players belonged in Los Angeles high schools. The checks "raised serious questions" as to whether the four were properly enrolled at Santa Monica, according to one Los Angeles official.

But Santa Monica High School administrators have said it was not until this summer that they found one player--star forward Keith Harris--living outside the district. Harris was removed from summer school and told he could not return this fall unless he lived in Santa Monica. The 6-6 forward admitted in an interview with The Times that he lived in Inglewood last year while playing for Santa Monica.

The Harris disclosure led to forfeiture of last season's games, according to George Caldwell, superintendent of the Santa Monica school district. Caldwell said the 1983-84 season was forfeited after he learned that another player lived outside the district and played on the team.

The superintendent would not name the player but said he got the information from a father with a "guilty conscience," who admitted that his son used a false address to play at Santa Monica.

The school board Monday considered two other actions involving the basketball team. On a 5-2 vote, the board approved hiring a private investigator to help school principals verify student addresses.

The school board, superintendent or principal of any school in the district will be able to call on the $25-per-hour investigator to check home address of any student suspected of living outside of the district.

School board President Connie Jenkins proposed hiring the private investigator in July.

Outside Verification

"Inasmuch as there might be an appearance that the school has an interest in the performance of the basketball team," Jenkins told the board then, "it might be better that someone who doesn't have an interest do the checking. . . .

"It is a way to reassure the public that these things are being taken care of; you have someone with no interest in the situation whatsoever do the checking."

Caldwell said this week that checking addresses had taken too much time away from the normal duties of school administrators.

The school board also discussed a policy, to be put to a vote at a future meeting, to punish students who falsify addresses.

Board members suggested that students who use false addresses be declared ineligible for sports and other extracurricular activities if they legally enroll in school later. Board member Della Barrett said the period of ineligibility should last for the year of the violation and the next entire school year.

The new policy, if approved, would not affect basketball players like Harris who previously falsified their homes addresses. It would apply only to those who submit false addresses after the policy has been approved. Action is expected this fall.

Harris, the Vikings' leading rebounder last season, has re-enrolled at Santa Monica High. Caldwell said that his address has been verified and that Harris will be eligible to play on the team this year, Caldwell said.

"The legal advice we had," Caldwell said, "was that unless the students were informed ahead of time of possible punitive action, that it would be a violation of their civil or property rights," to disqualify them from after-school activities.

Although Harris is returning, another star player from last year's team is not.

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