RIVERSIDE — The State Federated Council voted, 52-48, Friday against a proposal to form an Orange County athletic section.
There were two abstentions and two voters were not in attendance.
Superintendents from the county's 15 public high school districts are expected to meet next week to regroup, according to Ed Seal, the co-chairman of the steering committee created to establish a section. Seal said the superintendents will explore other options.
"It's up to them now," said Seal, who retired as superintendent of the Brea-Olinda Unified District last year. "They have to decide whether to let it go or take it further."
Those steps could be drastic.
Seal said the most extreme option was for county schools to withdraw from the Southern Section and form a section unsanctioned by the state. They would then reapply to the State Federated Council.
The suggestion was made at a meeting of 14 of the county's 15 superintendents Friday, but was not discussed at length according to Seal. It would be an unprecedented move and could be used as leverage.
The CIF is empowered by the State Legislature to run high school athletics in the state. Declining admission to an Orange County section, even one created without approval, could prompt the legislature to rescind the CIF's right to govern, or at least that is the veiled threat Seal is making.
"It all could end up in the State Legislature," Seal said. "That's a can of worms that we don't want to get into. A lot more than an Orange County section could be decided if it goes that route."
The other route would be to bring the issue to the Federated Council again at its January meeting. All county officials would need is one of the state sections to change its vote.
A county section proposal was overwhelmingly turned down by the council in 1992. Friday's vote was considerably closer after two years of preparation by county officials.
Seal, Fountain Valley Principal Gary Ernst and Los Alamitos Principal Carol Hart briefed the council on the development and planning of the new section.
Those plans were jolted earlier in the week when Fullerton superintendent Kenneth Jones announced that the six schools in his district would not join an Orange County section at this time. But Seal said the Fullerton defection did not affect the vote.
He said money and Southern Section clout defeated the proposal. The Southern Section has 26 votes on the council. The Central, North Coast, Northern and Oakland sections also voted no.
"There are financial implications," Seal said. "Another section would mean talking state money away from the other sections."
But the opponents who spoke were concerned more about competitive equity within the new section and the desire for the state strategic planning committee to complete its work. The committee is expected to look at redesigning the state's 10 sections, but has not yet proposed such a move.