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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HOT TOPIC

Marmonte League Might Close Some Doors on Transfers

September 13, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Marmonte League has established itself as a headline-maker, for better or worse.

Who could forget its ill-fated decision to ban traditional postgame handshakes, an error in judgment that was ridiculed in national publications.

On a more sensible front, a proposal is brewing that could have a more meaningful result.

In a meeting today, Marmonte League principals and athletic directors will discuss restricting athletic transfers.

Some schools have been winners in the transfer game--most notably Westlake in football and Simi Valley in boys' basketball--while others have been losers--Royal and Moorpark in nearly every sport.

The proposal would make all Marmonte League schools equal.

The plan, vociferously supported by Principal Bob LaBelle of Royal, penalizes athletes who transfer to a school in another district without changing residences. Such athletes would be banned from varisty competition for a year.

A similar policy was adopted a few years ago by the Oxnard Union High School District and has received generally favorable reviews.

But adoption of the plan by the Marmonte League, among the most influential leagues in the region, could change the way most schools deal with open enrollment.

"It's a trend that's going to keep coming up because people are sick and tired of playing teams that are not neighborhood teams," LaBelle said. "It's not fair.

"Our concern was with the club coaches and with parents shopping athletes. In no way did we ever say anything about recruiting [by coaches] or put blame on schools."

The proposal was introduced in May. Six of the seven Marmonte League schools approved it, with Westlake abstaining.

Because the vote was not unanimous, the proposal was tabled. Passing an agenda item becomes easier the second time. Only a majority vote is needed today.

With at least six votes expected to support the proposal, it would move to the next level, to the school boards of the Conejo, Las Virgenes, Simi Valley and Moorpark districts, which represent the Marmonte League schools.

All four school districts must approve the proposal. If not, it returns to square one, weakened and beleaguered.

In an athletic utopia, the plan gets passed and creates a domino effect, sparking an avalanche of reform in school districts throughout the region.

On the other hand, the plan could take on the characteristics of a poorly supported bill in the U.S. Congress, stagnating and withering into an abyss of disinterest.

Despite LaBelle's support for the proposal, he realizes the long odds it faces.

"If all four school boards don't approve it, it won't fly," he said. "It's tough enough to get four people to agree on anything in life. It's going to be tough in this case, too."

The plan has its supporters and detractors at nearly every school.

St. Bonaventure, a small private school in Ventura dubbed "St. Oxnard" by one Ventura County football coach, has undoubtedly benefited from the Oxnard district's decision to penalize transfers.

Several players on the St. Bonaventure football team are from the Oxnard area, including standout junior running back Lorenzo Booker.

But parents and players have the right to choose private education.

Still, some Marmonte League coaches fear a similar situation occurring with newly opened Oaks Christian, a private school in Westlake Village.

If the Marmonte League closes its doors to interdistrict transfers, Oaks Christian will gladly roll out the welcome mat, coaches theorize.

"We'd be building an Oaks Christian powerhouse," one coach said.

The proposal restricting athletic transfers is not without fault.

If passed, it could lead to an increase in address falsification. Excess paperwork, specifically address verification, could become the bane of school administrators.

"When rules are circumvented, that's when problems are created," said Athletic Director Lou Lichtl of Westlake.

"It makes our job as athletic administrators a little more difficult."

Another by-product of the proposal would please moving companies. Athletes would be eligible immediately if they move from one district to another.

The positives of the plan, however, appear to outweigh the negatives.

The proposal does not involve the Ventura School District, but football Coach Rick Scott of Buena is a proponent.

"The whole thing with me is let's just play on an even field," said Scott, whose school rarely allows interdistrict transfers because it is "impacted," or filled to capacity.

"We're going to end up hating each other if we start stealing each other's kids. This free-agency thing is ridiculous."

Win or lose, the fact the proposal is being seriously discussed in the Marmonte League is a victory.

It certainly beats the abolition of handshakes.

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