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scene in the Southland | NOTES

District Will Investigate Artesia Program

March 16, 2000|From Staff Reports

The ABC Unified School District and the Southern Section are working together to form a team to investigate Lakewood Artesia's boys' basketball program, a district official said Wednesday.

Gary Smuts, director of school services for the ABC district, of which Artesia is a member, said the action was spurred by a newspaper report that alleged that junior forward Jack Martinez and sophomore guard Jon Stefansson hold student visas with false information and that Martinez is in his fifth year of high school. The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported the story Tuesday.

Martinez, from the Dominican Republic, and Stefansson, from Iceland, helped Artesia defeat Huntington Beach Ocean View in the Southern Section Division II-A championship game.

According to the newspaper report, Martinez and Stefansson allegedly hold visas that state they attend Santa Ana Mater Dei High, a private school. The report also says that Mater Dei Principal Patrick Murphy said the person who signed the visa application on the school's behalf is not an employee of the school and is not registered with the Immigration and Naturalization Service as someone who is authorized to sign the documents.

Smuts said the district wants an "open, unbiased investigation."

"Our focus would be narrow in regard to school eligibility and eligibility to play a CIF sport," Smuts said. "The issues regarding immigration status are beyond our legal scope."

Smuts said the INS could launch its own investigation.

Jim Staunton, commissioner of the Southern Section, said he is assisting the school district in selecting two investigators to look into the matter. The investigative team, made up of one person with an education background and another from outside the system, is expected to be selected by the end of the week, Smuts said.

Staunton said the section will wait for the results of the district's investigation before deciding what, if any, action by the section, is warranted.

"I'm not ready to make a rush to judgment," Staunton said. "There could be a ways to go before this is all sorted out. The district has been very responsive and they want to get to the bottom of it."

Staunton added, however, that, "if there were undeniable proof [that the allegations were true], if there were admissions, there will be consequences."

The Harbor City Narbonne girls' basketball team was forced to forfeit its 1998 City Section and state Division I championships for violations related to residence issues.

Artesia also won section championships in 1998 and 1999 with Martinez on the roster. Staunton said those titles could be impacted if the allegations are true and violations date to those years.

"The precedent is you have to vacate the title," Staunton said. "As to whether we go back in history, I would really need to look at the reports and render a decision from there. I wouldn't rule it out."

*

For 30 years, Tim Mang dreamed of hosting a tennis tournament that matched the best high school boys' teams in the country.

On Friday, Mang's dream becomes a reality when play begins in the National High School Tennis All-American tournament. Matches will be played at five sites in the Newport Beach area and end Saturday at 6 p.m. with the finals at the Palisades Club.

"High school tennis has never had anything like this because nobody has wanted to put in the time to do it," Mang said. "It takes dealing with a lot of different states and organizations. It's not easy."

Corona del Mar, Palos Verdes Peninsula, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake are Southland schools in the event.

Mang wanted representation from every region of the country, but several states prohibit schools from traveling more than 500 miles to compete in athletic events.

"That eliminated most of the Midwest," Mang said. "I'm hoping some of these states change their laws so we can have a better tournament in the coming years."

The top-ranked out-of-state teams are third-seeded Englewood (Colo.) Cherry Creek and fourth-seeded Miami Dr. Michael Krop.

Mang is planning a national girls' tournament, scheduled Oct. 5-7 at Balboa Bay Club Racquet Club.

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