Long Beach Poly's Kameron Chatman, center, joins his teammates wearing… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
The decision by Long Beach Poly boys' basketball Coach Sharrief Metoyer to knowingly play an ineligible player, Kameron Chatman, on Tuesday night against Santa Ana Mater Dei in protest of a CIF eligibility decision is going to require major damage control.
Metoyer inserted Chatman, a junior forward, into the state playoff game with 1:12 left. Poly lost, 83-63, so it had no impact on the game, but ignoring a CIF eligibility ruling is unprecedented in Southern Section history.
That's because the potential punishment to a school can be severe. According to the Southern Section's Blue Book rule 500.5, "Any school knowingly or unknowingly violating the rule may be suspended from membership in the CIF Southern Section."
Chatman was scheduled to become eligible on Saturday after sitting out the entire season following his transfer from Portland, Ore. The Southern Section ruled that he had followed his travel coach, Metoyer, to Poly, with the penalty being a one year sit-out period at the varsity level. Metoyer also is his godfather.
"An unfair situation happened with him," Metoyer said after the game. "Somebody had to make a statement. The game of basketball means nothing — we're supposed to be in the business of helping kids."
Poly players wore T-shirts reading "FreeKam" at Tuesday's game. That brought plenty of attention to Chatman's situation. But then Metoyer took the nuclear option, ignoring a CIF ruling that was reviewed by an appeals panel and upheld.
It has put Poly's athletic program in jeopardy and threatens Metoyer's coaching status.
The Southern Section could ban Poly from the playoffs next season and Metoyer could end up being forced to resign. The Southern Section can only recommend a penalty against Metoyer. It's up to the school to take any disciplinary action.
Poly is in a precarious position because last month its wrestling coach resigned and the team had to forfeit the Moore League wrestling title when it was discovered that a star wrestler was ineligible for not fulfilling weight management requirements. Combine that with Metoyer's actions and you can make a case for "lack of institutional control," the language the NCAA uses when cracking down on a college program.
Poly is a 19-time Southern Section champion in basketball. Its athletic program is recognized as one of the best in the nation.
Somebody needs to find a solution to what has become a big mess. A meeting between the Southern Section and Poly officials is scheduled for Tuesday.
I have found Metoyer to be a man of integrity and a positive mentor to many of his athletes. But it was the wrong way and wrong time to make a stand. If he wanted to challenge the CIF, he should have done it in court or proposed a new rule through the Moore League.
I just hope he doesn't lose his job over this. The students at Poly need him.