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Specter of Recruiting Affects Basketball

May 11, 1993|ERIC SHEPARD

Randolph Simpson, boys' basketball coach at Manual Arts High, said last month that he is so tired of all the recruiting of inner-city basketball players that goes on that he often thinks of giving up his job.

Simpson guided Manual Arts to the City Section's Division 4-A championship in 1990, but has watched in recent years as other teams have risen to the top.

"At times I really feel like getting out," he said. "It's tiring. But then I think about the kids and how much I enjoy them. That keeps me in it."

Simpson is not alone in alleging that recruiting of players is widespread and increasing. Many Southland coaches say undue influence is out of hand. But most do not want their names attached to such statements.

That makes it difficult for the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports in the state, to do anything about it. Without a formal complaint, CIF officials are in no position to investigate. They have neither the time nor the staffing to check whether players are attending the school in their districts, or whether they are playing for the teams they selected on their own. Those responsibilities are the schools'.

The CIF knows that players are switching school districts solely for athletic purposes in increased numbers. The Southern Section, the largest of 10 sections in the CIF, has dealt with more than 1,600 transfer and hardship waiver requests this calendar year alone.

"We have processed more (special transfer requests this year) than in the last seven years combined," said Stan Thomas, Southern Section commissioner.

Perhaps that is why few, if any, CIF officials were shocked by a Times' story last Saturday that reported that the Crenshaw boys' basketball team, the City and State champion, had four players last season who were listed at inaccurate addresses on an eligibility roster and two assistant coaches who had significant contact with players before they moved in the district.

Hal Harkness, City Section commissioner, said Monday that his office was investigating the Crenshaw situation and will announce its findings in three or four weeks.

The Times decided to look into the Crenshaw program after several readers questioned how a team could legally have nine transfers. The investigation was extensive.

Although the belief here is that eligibility and recruiting are a widespread problem in the Southland, Crenshaw was selected for the closer look because of the large number of transfers and the school's high visibility.

One role of the press is to be a watchdog, even on the level of high school sports. For those who may question motivation in the Crenshaw story, that is the only one.

One role that is not that of the press is to determine any punishment. The City Section said it will do that, if necessary. Crenshaw could ultimately be stripped of its City and State titles. It also could be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Stories like this are never easy. But they can make a difference. Which is, perhaps, the ultimate role of the press.

Prep Notes

There has been plenty of controversy surrounding the football coaching position at Mission Viejo this spring. Coach Mike Rush resigned under pressure last March after failing to enforce a ban against students' use of the school's devil mascot. Mission Viejo's nickname is the Diablos, devils in Spanish. When the Saddleback Valley Unified School District's board of education ruled that the ban was an infringement on free speech, Rush asked for his job back. But Bob Metz, Mission Viejo's principal, denied the request. Several players' parents formed a committee to help Rush get his job back, but to no avail. The school hired Marty Spalding, an assistant at Laguna Hills, last week. Spalding then hired Bob Johnson, a former El Toro coach, as an assistant. Several parents were upset over hiring of Johnson, who is noted for his intense style.

Margarito Casillas of Glendale Hoover, one of the top distance runners in the nation, committed to Arizona last week. As a junior, Casillas placed fifth in the national cross-country run at San Diego. . . . Jeff Davis, one of the City Section's biggest boys' basketball coaching crusaders the past four years, resigned at Canoga Park last week. He will coach at Burbank this season. Davis was active in the continued fight against budget cuts and in altering the basketball season when the district switched to year-round classes.

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