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County Principals Are Sent Back to the Drawing Board : High school athletics: After hearing appeal, committee rejects releaguing proposal.


CERRITOS — The Southern Section league realignment committee rejected a proposal by Orange County principals Wednesday.

The committee voted, 5-4, to send the proposal back to county principals after an appeal by Brea-Olinda, El Dorado, El Modena and Santa Ana. All four schools objected to being placed with Esperanza and Mater Dei in the Empire League because of competitive inequity.

The principals now must devise another proposal that will take effect in the 1994-95 school year.

"Right now, we need to get a timetable," said Western Principal Warren Stephenson, who heads the county's realignment committee. "It's just difficult to get principals together with schools closing. No one can get away."

A new proposal must be submitted by late September, so the league alignment committee can again hear appeals. The section's new leagues will be voted on at the section council meeting Oct. 21.

Orange County's proposal could be withheld at that time, if it is not ready. But section Commissioner Stan Thomas said he would prefer that all leagues be approved at the council meeting.

"Otherwise, Orange County schools will be behind in scheduling games," Thomas said.

This is the second time a county proposal has been rejected. An earlier plan was returned by Thomas, who ordered county principals to come up with a process to realign leagues.

That process resulted in an Empire League that was unacceptable to most of its schools. It was the only county league out of 10 that brought an appeal.

"The process was fine, the result wasn't," said Liberty Christian Principal Clark Stephens, a member of the league realignment committee. "It was like they built a house, but the last piece looked out of place."

The Empire League was that last piece. Principals from Brea-Olinda, El Dorado, El Modena and Santa Ana were concerned about the differences in enrollment and the competitive balance.

All said they did not think their schools could compete with Esperanza and Mater Dei, two of the top athletic schools in the county.

Esperanza, with an enrollment of 2,473, has won 26 Empire League championships in the last two years. The Aztecs were Division II co-champions in football last fall and are playing in the Division I baseball title game Saturday.

Mater Dei, with an enrollment of 2,125, has been a long-time power in boys' basketball, winning eight section and two State championships since 1983. The Monarchs also were Division I football champions in 1991.

Brea-Olinda has an enrollment of 1,499, El Dorado is at 1,504 and El Modena is 1,766. Santa Ana has an enrollment of 2,739 but has been overwhelmed in the Sunset League--a Division I league.

"There is no way we could compete day-to-day with Esperanza and Mater Dei," El Modena Principal Gail Richards said. "With more students, they will have size and depth."

Richards said she hoped the principals would adopt their second choice, which would place Esperanza in the Sunset League and Mater Dei in the South Coast League. That proposal lost, 32-27, to the one that was submitted.

"We just need three swing votes to get that one passed," Richards said. "I think it will be one that everyone can live with."

Mater Dei also appealed the proposal and asked to join the Sunset League. That will be taken up by the county principals in their meeting to create an acceptable proposal.

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