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Shortened Schedule Is Criticized : Earthquake: Some coaches don't like decision to cancel basketball games in Foothill League.

January 28, 1994|DANA HADDAD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The decision appears final, but the debate continues.

The issue is Tuesday's vote by Foothill League principals to cancel one-third of the league season for all teams in all sports.

Because the Jan. 17 earthquake brought extensive damage to one Foothill school--Hart High--and destroyed vital sections of the freeway system connecting the Santa Clarita Valley with the San Fernando Valley, league administrators voted, 4-1, to limit games to Saturdays for the next three weeks--at which time the winter season will end.

Instead of playing the scheduled 12 league games, teams will play eight.

The principals do not want students taking long bus rides in heavy traffic to games. But some coaches are saying they will take the long rides and make whatever adjustments necessary to salvage the season.

"The coaches want to play," said Burroughs High boys' basketball Coach Art Sullivan earlier in the week. "We need to get the thing worked out."

But the sentiments of Burroughs Principal Tim Buchanan strongly opposed those of his coach.

"God bless those kids, they only play 25 games during the summer as well as (about 26 games in the regular) season," Buchanan said. "I don't wish to diminish the intensity of coaches, but those kids are playing basketball 24 hours a day.

"The earthquake has been pretty disruptive, to say the least. People need to get a little perspective."

Coaches and administrators agree the sooner everyone returns to normal activities the better. But from the coaches' perspective, sports is a normal activity--a physical diversion that can aid in psychological healing.

"I know from practicing with my team this week that being together was therapeutic," Canyon basketball Coach Greg Hayes said.

Hayes and Canyon Athletic Director David Harris fought against the proposal the league eventually adopted--a plan made by the Hart District Athletic Council last Friday.

Hayes and Harris had several counter proposals--including a season-ending league tournament--under which most, if not all, of the games could be played.

But the league instead appealed to the Hart committee for a recommendation, because its community suffered vastly more earthquake damage than the other schools. Principal Laurence Strauss said 10 teachers at Hart have been displaced from their homes, including boys' basketball Coach Mike May.

Hart's campus has severe damage. Building inspectors have prohibited entry to the auditorium and both gymnasiums. Strauss' office was relocated because the administration building is damaged.

Gas was not restored at Hart until Wednesday, when the school opened for the first time since the earthquake with a minimum day.

"We have kids who have been displaced, and probably some of the other schools could not relate to what we're experiencing," Strauss said. "We've got people in our community with no water."

Canyon Principal Mike Allmandinger cast the dissenting vote, he said, because he supported the philosophy of the coaches. "There is a way to salvage the season through a tournament," he said.

Harris said other athletic directors in the league were willing to explore his tournament proposal, but the committee which met last Friday never discussed it.

The Hart boys' basketball team--ranked No. 1 in the area by The Times with an 18-1 record--has practiced regularly at Masters College and College of the Canyons. The Indians, like their league counterparts, appear eager to resume the season.

Hart assistant Gary Spindt, who has conducted practices in May's absence, declared: "We'll play. Any time, any place."

Hayes said he will honor the ruling. But if his team can't recoup the the games they lost, he will try the next best thing. Canyon will ask their league opponents to play practice games.

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