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Villa Park Coach Is Out of Job

Luke, who won a protest over a rule infraction by an opponent, allegedly broke a rule himself.

June 09, 2005|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

He protested a rule violation and won, allowing his team to advance by forfeit in the recent Southern Section baseball playoffs.

Now an investigation into allegations that his team broke a rule leading up to the very game he protested has prompted Scott Luke to leave his post as Villa Park High coach.

Athletic Director Tom Fox said Wednesday that Luke resigned after school officials confronted him with allegations that members of his team took batting practice before traveling to a first-round Division I playoff game at Arcadia the night of May 20. Such a session is against a restriction prohibiting "batting practice on the day of a playoff game prior to the commencement of the contest," as quoted from the California Interscholastic Federation rule book.

Villa Park lost to Arcadia, 4-0, but was awarded a victory the next day because Arcadia Coach Sean McCorry was seen watching the game despite being banned from attending the contest. McCorry had been ejected from Arcadia's previous game and rules required that he not be "in attendance" the next time his team played.

Early in the game, Luke advised umpires that he was protesting because McCorry was watching from beyond the right-field fence. McCorry said that he and Arcadia athletic officials had determined that he was allowed to watch as long as he was not within the boundaries of the field or stands and did not try to communicate with his players.

"How ironic is that?" McCorry said Wednesday afternoon. "You're protesting a game, yet you yourself were cheating on the side?"

The upheld protest allowed Villa Park to advance in the playoffs, but the Spartans were defeated by Riverside Poly in their next game.

The situation evoked a variety of opinions. Many were critical of McCorry, but some viewed Luke, Villa Park and the section as villains for taking away a victory on what was viewed as a technicality.

The parents of some Arcadia players filed a lawsuit trying to get the forfeit overturned, but that attempt failed. That prompted a letter to The Times from Dr. Josh D. Luke, Scott's brother, that began, "Does Arcadia High School teach that cheating is OK -- so long as you don't get caught? Apparently, the baseball boosters at AHS must think so."

Fox, the Villa Park boys' athletic director, said he received an anonymous tip that the Spartans had taken live batting practice before the game.

The section's baseball playoff bulletin in April specifically addressed the batting practice rule, which is different from the regular season. The rule states that "the only acceptable batting warmup will be side soft toss, batting tee work or pepper."

Luke resigned, Fox said, after he and Villa Park Principal Rod Hust confronted him with the allegation during a meeting.

"Before we could finish the investigation, he tendered his resignation," Fox said.

Luke, in his third season as a walk-on coach, did not return telephone calls Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon he released a statement that said in part, "It is in the best interest of my family both personally and professionally to pursue an opportunity at a place that will allow me to teach and coach."

Dr. Richard Wade, whose son, Matt, was a senior pitcher for the Spartans, said Luke announced his resignation at the team awards dinner Tuesday night, surprising those in attendance. However, Wade said the Spartans have had difficulty adjusting to Luke since he took over for Tom Tereschuk, who is now coach at Chapman College.

"It has been a tough three years," Wade said. "The program is in total disarray."

Fox contacted the section office regarding the batting practice, but section spokesman Thom Simmons said the discovery would have no effect on Arcadia's forfeit.

"Arcadia was never going to advance, even if we knew about the batting practice beforehand," Simmons said. "It would have been a double forfeit and Riverside Poly would have advanced."

Luke, the brother of former Dodger Matt Luke, previously coached at Lakewood Artesia for three seasons. He is no stranger to controversy, having pulled the Spartans out of their own tournament in 2003 to compete in the more prestigious Placentia El Dorado National Classic.

His decision outraged many involved with the eight-team Villa Park tournament, which is sponsored by the Ryan Ferguson Foundation in memory of a Villa Park player who died in June 2000 from complications of heat stroke while riding a motorcycle.

"I feel like we're doing the right thing," Luke said then. "At the same time, I understand the importance of our tournament and whom it is dedicated to."

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