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Arguments Against League Realignment Fall on Deaf Ears

High schools: Southern Section committee votes, 8-0, for plan that moves Mater Dei to Sunset League and Marina to Pacific Coast.


BUENA PARK — A Southern Section committee on realigning leagues turned its back on every appeal Tuesday and, with a single, unanimous vote, let stand a controversial realignment plan for county high schools set to begin in the fall of 1998.

The most debated aspects of the plan are the moves of Marina from the Sunset League to the Pacific Coast League and Mater Dei from the South Coast League to the Sunset.

Representatives from the Sunset and Pacific Coast leagues had sought to have the committee return the realignment proposal to county principals for review. The principals passed the proposal by a 47-13 vote in February.

However, with little discussion Thursday at the Sequoia Athletic Club, the committee voted, 8-0, to pass the proposal on to the Southern Section Council for final approval at its first meeting in the fall. Committee member Duffy Clark, principal of Mission Viejo High, abstained.

Marina Principal Carol Osbrink said she will appeal to the CIF Federated Council at its next meeting in October. Osbrink sought to convince the committee that county principals had ignored state guidelines on competitive equity, enrollment and geography when they voted to move Marina. She was supported by Laguna Beach Principal Barbara Callard, whose school is a member of the Pacific Coast League.

In separate speeches to the committee, they pointed out that Laguna Beach ranks 61st in enrollment in the county while Marina ranks 18th; that Marina's average one-way travel distance and time in the new league will increase by 16.7 miles and 18.2 minutes, and that Marina currently competes in Division I, while schools in the newly organized Pacific Coast League range from Division IV to Division VIII.

"We feel the principals randomly moved Marina out of the Sunset League to make way for Mater Dei without regard for the placement criteria," Osbrink said. "The expectations of the community and of the parents in our area is to play Division I."

About 30 school administrators and a half dozen Marina parents listened to the presentations, which took less than the allotted 1 hour 20 minutes. After only a couple of questions from committee members, about 90 seconds of silence passed before Stu Reeder, principal of Hacienda Heights Wilson, moved that the committee sustain the proposal.

About a dozen administrators, led by Osbrink, confronted Southern Section Commissioner Dean Crowley immediately after the vote, and Crowley suggested they appeal to the state council. By rule, Crowley sits on the realignment committee but does not vote.

Committee members agreed that the strength of the vote by county principals--the proposal was passed by more than the required two-thirds majority--was the main reason they turned down the appeals.

"It was a very strong position for the principals," said committee member Ben Bushman, principal of Beverly Hills High. "There were a large number of schools in the county that were for it."

Reeder agreed.

"At the Orange County principals meeting there were 24 proposals looked at. It wasn't like they only took into consideration one or two," he said.

After the meeting, Osbrink was approached by several people who suggested that if she would accept a seven-team Sunset League that included Mater Dei and Marina, she might be able to persuade county principals to reopen the issue. Osbrink angrily dismissed that thinking as "taking the easy way out and not listening to the criteria."

Callard said later she would accept a five-team Pacific Coast League without Marina. Northwood, which is scheduled to open in Irvine in 1999, will join the Pacific Coast League.

Mater Dei Principal Patrick Murphy, who listened to the proceedings but did not speak to the committee, said he supports Osbrink's contentions that state criteria on realignment were ignored. He predicted the struggle was just beginning.

"This is not over," he said. "Marina has a legitimate concern in its state appeal."

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