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Coach Gets Lifetime Ban for Moving First-Down Marker

December 15, 2005|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Section gave a lifetime coaching ban to the San Pedro High assistant football coach who was caught on videotape cheating to give his team an advantage during a game in late October.

Paul Bryan, a coach for 23 years with San Pedro, will not be allowed to coach at any school within the L.A. Unified School District.

Bryan was caught moving a yard marker that helped keep alive a fourth-quarter drive in which San Pedro scored on Oct. 28. San Pedro eventually defeated Gardena, 13-12.

Bryan's action was called "the most egregious thing I've ever seen a coach do on the sideline" by Chatsworth Principal Jeff Davis, a member of the section's rules committee that imposed the ban.

Gardena Coach Marshall Jones said, "Coaches are under a great burden to not only teach kids how to play the game and try to win, but also to help mold them into young adults and good people. It's a tough job, but it's one a lot of us love and put our hearts and souls into, and we don't like it when people do things that taint the profession.

"Ultimately, it's a game, and the best team should win, and there shouldn't be any question as to how that happens."

The nine-member rules committee convened Tuesday and met with San Pedro Principal Diana Gelb and Athletic Director Bob Schatz. Neither Bryan nor Mike Walsh, the head football coach, was present. The school was told of the decision Wednesday.

"The rules committee felt the act was serious enough to warrant a lifetime ban," said Barbara Fiege, director of the City Section, which is one of three California Interscholastic Federation sections statewide that is also its own school district and has hiring and firing power.

"They felt that it was a premeditated decision, at that time, to move the chains. And that act, in and of itself, was serious enough to warrant that penalty.

"We continue to talk about the importance of using athletic competition as part of the educational process of the students that we work with, and this was a good expose of how important those lessons are."

Tonya Cameron, District 8 director of the LAUSD, which includes San Pedro, said, "It's unfortunate that one person's actions put a blot on the school's reputation. It's very unprofessional, uncalled for, not supported by anyone. You try to teach the kids to have dignity and honor and ethics in every avenue of their school career."

Gelb had initially suspended Bryan from coaching for a year, but on Tuesday she said she would not rehire him in the future. A teacher's aide in special education at San Pedro, Bryan was transferred to Wilmington Middle School on Nov. 8, based on what Gelb called the "health, safety and welfare of the students and district."

Gelb, Schatz and Walsh did not return phone calls. Bryan declined to comment but said he has retained an attorney.

Bryan, a volunteer coach, moved the yard marker closer to the line of scrimmage, and officials signaled for a first down without taking an actual measurement. The misdeed was noticed by Harbor City Narbonne coaches a week later while studying their videotape of the game, and they couldn't understand why referees didn't measure on such a close play.

Manuel Douglas, Narbonne's head coach, felt Bryan's punishment was too severe. "I'm not making excuses, but a year's suspension should have been it," he said. "This is what the guy lives for. There's been 20 years of coaching where he's done an admirable job. I don't see how you can take it away from him the rest of his life.... He did something wrong, no doubt, but that seems a little excessive ... a lot excessive."

At a McDonald's near San Pedro High, community member Andy Waters said Bryan got what he deserved. "There is no place for cheating in sports, especially at the high school level," Waters said. "What kind of message are we sending to kids, that it's OK to cheat? What kind of kids are they going to grow up to be? Probably the head of Enron or WorldCom."

Other sanctions could be forthcoming. The rules committee requested to meet with Walsh, Schatz and the assistant principal in charge of athletics, Aadil Naazir, on Jan. 17, and tabled further action until that time.

The committee took a dim view of Bryan's making a student an accessory to his act, since the chain crew was made up of students, not adults.

At the hearing, Schatz said he had been told by Bryan when they first discussed the incident, "I was putting it back where I originally saw it."

On Tuesday, Gelb and Schatz mostly answered questions about when the school had learned of the tape and why Gelb had waited until after the season ended, 11 days, to view a copy. She said she didn't realize the severity of the incident but relieved Bryan of his duties immediately, on Nov. 29, six days after San Pedro was beaten by Sylmar, 33-30, in the City quarterfinals.

The tape attracted national headlines.

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