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Southern Section Council Votes Against O.C. Secession


BUENA PARK — The Southern Section Council overwhelmingly voted against supporting an Orange County high school athletic section. Only 12 of the section's 73 league representatives present voted in favor of a new section during Thursday's meeting at the Sequoia Athletic Club.

In a related matter, a Catholic school official said Mater Dei would remain in the Southern Section regardless of whether a county section is formed. Mater Dei Principal Pat Murphy denied a decision had been made.

The council voted to instruct its representatives to oppose an Orange County section at next week's State Federated Council meeting. The section proposal will be put before state members Oct. 28.

"I have no comment about the Orange County section," Southern Section Commissioner Dean Crowley said. "But I was surprised that only 12 leagues supported one."

Orange County officials will seek to gain support from the state's nine other sections.

"I think we'll have more support in the state than the section," said University Athletic Director Mark Cunningham, who represented the Pacific Coast League. "We knew we didn't have a chance at the section level."

Those chances are still slim. The Southern Section controls 26 of the 104 votes on the State Federated Council. County officials must gather support from sections already wary of Southern California's clout.

The Sac-Joaquin Section is next with 13 council votes. If an Orange County section were created, the Southern Section would retain its 26 votes on the Federated Council, according to Crowley. He said any votes given to a new section would likely be drawn from the rest of the sections.

A section official said that would probably tilt the Northern California sections against the proposal. He also said a new section would mean another recipient of state sponsorship money, another reason for the sections to oppose the proposal.

"It's all going to depend how much the the (county) superintendents want to fight for it," said Valencia Principal George Allen, the Orange League representative. "It's all up to them."

Thirteen of the county's 15 public school districts have passed resolutions in favor of a county section. Cynthia Grennan, Anaheim superintendent, and Ken Jones, Fullerton superintendent, have said they would wait until the State Strategic Planning Committee finished its report.

That report is expected to contain provisions for an Orange County section.

Opponents of an Orange County section said they were concerned about the competitive equity within a new section and the financial impact on the Southern Section.

Crowley estimated a loss of $100,000-$300,000 in playoff revenue if the county's 75 schools seceded. Council members asked the council if dues would be raised to compensate for the losses, but Crowley said no projection could be made at this time.

Competition also was a concern.

"I don't think they have the interest of their kids in mind," said Hemet Athletic Director Jim Judd, who represented the Sunbelt League. "They don't have enough schools of similar size to make a equitable playoff."

Judd said because of that, the Sunbelt League voted 4-2 not to support an Orange County section.

Officials already faced the competitive equity problem once; the county's 15 small schools said they would not be served by a county section. Those schools have opted to remain with the Southern Section, an option given to all county schools, public and private. Mater Dei, the largest Catholic school west of Chicago, apparently has joined that group.

The Orange County diocese left that decision up to officials of each of the county's three large parochial schools: Mater Dei, Santa Margarita and Servite. Mater Dei officials informed the diocese of their decision to remain in the Southern Section two weeks ago, according to a Catholic school official.

But Murphy said the school was not required to make a choice until December. He said the decision will be made after the financial aspects and bylaws of an Orange County section were more clear.

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