The California Interscholastic Federation on Friday denied Montclair Prep's appeal to have its playoff eligibility restored for the 1991-92 school year, apparently bringing to an end one of the longest-running battles in Southern Section history.
State Commissioner Thomas Byrnes informed the school he had denied its request that he overturn the Southern Section Executive Committee's Jan. 27 decision.
V.E. (Doc) Simpson, the principal and founder of Montclair Prep, said the school has no plans to pursue the issue further. Simpson said the school will honor its arrangement with the Southern Section in which Montclair Prep agreed that it would not seek legal recourse once the CIF appeals process was exhausted.
While the ruling leaves the school's basketball teams out in the cold--brackets for the Southern Section playoffs will be drawn up today--several parents of players on the baseball team said Friday that they might seek legal action to circumvent the ban.
Byrnes, whose ruling was unilateral, said the section followed procedural guidelines in its investigation and that he found no reason to overturn the Executive Committee's ruling.
Simpson said he was disappointed by Byrnes' ruling and characterized the process at the section level as vindictive. He was particularly critical of Southern Section Commissioner Stan Thomas, whom he said was "out to get" Montclair Prep.
The playoff ban stems from an April agreement between the section and the school in which Montclair Prep admitted to an unspecified recruiting violation in its football program. The section later agreed to allow the school to petition for playoff reinstatement in winter and spring sports when a key witness recanted his testimony in November.
The Executive Committee upheld the postseason ban last month and Montclair Prep filed its appeal. Most of the section's evidence centered on violations committed during the 1985 football season.
"Most of these kids were in elementary school (in 1985)," Simpson said. "I really feel that if they wanted to sanction us for something that happened (in football) seven or eight years ago, they shouldn't sanction the whole program.
"Stan Thomas was out to get us, I think. I know he's a very happy man right now."
Thomas, who learned Friday that Montclair Prep parents might seek an injunction, was less than pleased to hear the issue had not been put to rest.
"Montclair Prep has cost this office more time, money and effort than any 100 schools put together," Thomas said. "I'm getting a little tense about all this."
The Montclair Prep boys' basketball team is 23-1, has won 21 consecutive games and will play its season finale tonight at 7:30 at Campbell Hall.
The mood among players at practice Friday wasn't particularly downcast, co-Coach Howard Abrams said, but that could soon change.
"It's not too bad," Abrams said of the team's disposition, "but after that game, it'll probably be different."
Said Simpson: "I can live with it. I have more trophies around here than I know what to do with. It's the kids who really paid the price."