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Ocean View Petition Denied, Team Is Out of Playoffs

February 14, 1986|MIKE DiGIOVANNA | Times Staff Writer

The Ocean View High School boys' basketball team, which had been sanctioned by the CIF Southern Section because of violation of a transfer rule, has lost its last chance to go to the 5-A playoffs.

A petition to overturn the sanctions was denied Thursday by Orange County Superior Court Judge Harmon G. Scoville.

The petition, filed by Ocean View Coach Jim Harris, the school's basketball booster group and 12 members of the team, had asked the court to reinstate the Seahawks in next week's playoffs.

Harris said he doubts that he will appeal the verdict.

"There could be grounds for an appeal, but it would be too little too late," he said.

The Seahawks, ranked No. 3 in the Orange County Sportswriters Assn. poll and champions of the Sunset League with a 10-0 record (20-4 overall), ended their season on Wednesday night. Edison, Fountain Valley and Marina high schools will represent the league in the postseason tournament.

Harris, who last fall had appealed the penalties at the Southern Section and State CIF levels but lost, said: "I'm not shocked or surprised. I've become so unemotional for so long that I was prepared to hear that answer. It was an uphill battle all the way."

The Southern Section ruled the Seahawks ineligible for the playoffs for violating CIF Rule 510 (undue influence) in retaining Lynwood transfers Ricky Butler and Desi Hazely at Ocean View in the summer of 1984.

John Myers, Ocean View principal, had forfeited the Seahawks' 24 victories and league title from the 1984-85 season, and decided not to rehire Harris as coach in March, 1985, after a Huntington Beach Union High School District investigation revealed the infraction.

Myers reinstated Harris as coach in May after Harris signed a written admission of guilt, but the Southern Section Executive Committee voted to impose stiffer penalties in August when it decided that the school's self-imposed sanctions were insufficient.

After two unsuccessful appeals, Harris, the Ocean View booster club and 12 players filed a lawsuit against the high school, district and the CIF, claiming that Rule 510 was never violated and that the section's sanctions were excessive.

Scoville's opinion was distributed to members of the press Thursday in a written statement. Harris, after learning of the decision, had a brief team meeting at school, after which several players expressed their disappointment.

"I was pretty shocked--I thought we'd be in the playoffs," said Butler, a 6-foot 6-inch forward. "I just hope we can win the league next year and get into the playoffs. I feel sorry for guys like (seniors) Blaine (DeBrouwer) and Tony (Panzica), who worked so hard and won't get a second chance."

Said Mike Vogtmann, 6-8 senior center: "I wasn't a member of the varsity team last year, but I'm being punished for what happened last season. That's not right."

Added Panzica, a 6-6 forward and three-year starter: "I feel like I've been short-changed my senior year. We had started playing real well in the second half of league play, and now the season is over. It hasn't really hit me yet."

Shane Morris, a senior and the Seahawks' sixth man: "I'm a little angry and very depressed. It's going to take a while to figure everything out. It's kind of confusing."

Scoville made his decision very clear. In his written opinion, he categorically shot down every argument that Harris and his lawyers raised in the case.

Harris' attorneys, John Saginaw and Ray Alvarado, had argued that Rule 510 was ambiguous and that the CIF abused its power in imposing sanctions.

The lawyers also claimed that participation in extracurricular sports is a fundamental right and should be constitutionally protected. Scoville, citing a recent California Court of Appeals case (Steffes v. California Interscholastic Federation) which determined in January that the ability to play extracurricular sports is a privilege and not a right, said it was a privilege.

Harris argued that, because he was not given a hearing when he was first dismissed as coach, he was not afforded due process. The court found that the district had no obligation to provide Harris with a hearing, because he continued to hold his position as a permanent tenured employee (teacher).

Harris also argued that he was coerced into signing the admission of guilt in order to get his coaching job back and that he signed the statement under duress, but Scoville found that the circumstances of the case do not support his claims.

Regardless of the defeat, Harris still believes he is innocent. He maintains that he never broke the intent of Rule 510, which is to "assure that the student athlete is making a free and unpressured choice of his or her high school."

According to the CIF, the 510 violation occurred when Harris took over the process of obtaining an inter-district transfer from the Saddleback Valley Unified School district in August, 1984, so that Butler and Hazely could remain at Ocean View while living in Harris' El Toro home.

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