L.A. Times’ Sondheimer weighs in on Mater Dei lawsuit against the CIF-Southern Section

If Mater Dei wants to challenge whether it’s constitutional for the CIF to deny eligibility because a student transferred for athletic reasons, bring it on. That’s a legitimate, worthy debate. But the suit filed last week is pure fantasy.

Sondheimer also wrote: One of the athletes involved, Todd Hunt, a transfer from a school in Connecticut, has a CIF appeal hearing scheduled for Tuesday. He has been seeking a hardship waiver of transfer rules, and his story is sad and compelling. He had a brother stabbed to death. The police chief in his hometown of Norwalk, Conn., has written a letter indicating that Hunt’s life could be in jeopardy if he returned to the area. That’s a clear hardship to me. But Hunt moved in with the family of Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek, who he knew in Connecticut, and I assume Staunton decided it was an athletically motivated decision.

Robledo: This is one of my beef’s with the “athletically motivated” rule and how CIF interprets it. I’m assuming CIF felt Hunt’s move was in “part” athletically motivated because he knew the QB from his hometown and moved in with him. But shouldn’t the fact his brother was killed and the police chief is on record saying his life could be in danger if he remained outweigh whether or not CIF believes it’s an athletically motivated transfer? Now, don’t feel sorry for Mater Dei, but these decisions by CIF continue to amaze. Not surprising is the letter below, CIF upset than anyone would dare challenge one of their decisions. It’s about time, it’s not about knowing what the policies are, as Staunton states, it’s about how CIF chooses to enforce and interpret them is what upsets so many schools. Staunton also suggests the section is available to hear any complaints or allegations. The problem is sometimes is takes forever for CIF to set hearing dates, so the kids suffer on the sidelines without their day in court. Well, now, Mater Dei has sped up that process, what’s wrong with that?

CIF issues a press release as it relates to the lawsuit: The CIF Southern Section office expresses its disappointment at the filing of a lawsuit by the Diocese of Orange contending unfair treatment of Mater Dei High School. “Mater Dei has been a long standing member of CIF-Southern Section and is clearly aware of our policies,” stated CIF Southern Section Commissioner Dr. Jim Staunton. “If Mater Dei had concerns about eligibility decisions, they had several channels of communication to express those concerns. Why they did not exercise their options as members is baffling.” The Section maintains open lines of communication with all member schools including Mater Dei High School yet this lawsuit is the first indication of any dissatisfaction of the application of the rules. During the history of the organization including the sixty years Mater Dei High School has been a member of CIF-Southern Section, the rules have been enforced and applied without prejudice or malice against any of its members. The Section is confused that one of the most successful school athletic programs in the Section would make a claim of disproportionate treatment by the organization. The Office is available to hear any complaints or allegations, as is the Southern Section Executive Committee, yet the Diocese of Orange has filed this suit without prior communication to the Southern Section Office. “While the CIF-SS never wishes to be involved in litigation with one of our member schools, we look forward to demonstrating the fair and equal application of our rules on behalf of all our membership,” added Staunton.

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  • Norco

    You bring up the point Hunt was in danger and hence why he had to move. Well, he is now attending a private school in Santa Ana and is out of harms way. Isn’t that more important than his ability to play football?

    The fact that he moved in with the starting QB from the same school and the fact he stated in an interview last football season that he was playing his Senior year at MD. And I am pretty sure the Witteks are not his legal guardians had nothing to do with the fact that he was declared ineligible? People forget this move was done for his personal safety…Not to play football.

  • jcaz

    It’s about time someone finally sued the CIF over this ongoing transfer rule (farce).

    Now maybe we can finally get this issue settled and let the kids play where they want to.

  • Reality

    Staunton says “During the history of the organization including the sixty years Mater Dei High School has been a member of CIF-Southern Section, the rules have been enforced and applied without prejudice or malice against any of its members.”

    How do we know there’s been no prejudcie or malice with the good ole’ boys at CIF, because Staunton says so…Let an impartial court decide and let the chips fall where they may..

  • Norco

    Bottom line…two points:

    1). A senior moving across the entire country without (as I understand) his entire family is not on the face of it comparable to a kid who moves a matter of several miles. The latter may be suspicious, but the former is self evident.

    2). This issue is far more important than this isolated transcontinental transfer. Funny part is Mater Dei one of the largest private HS in Orange County actually suing the cash strapped CIF because they could not get their highly questionable transfer declared eligible presents a picture that even the most level headed educator will find nauseating and amusing. Your court case is “They got away with it, why can’t we? Bwahahahahahaha….BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! – PUH

  • Jcazjoke

    What does CIF stand for?

    Can’t Interpret Fairly

  • EvanLeigh

    jcaz… the lawsuit is not about athletically motivated transfers… what the lawsuit says is that Mater Dei has been treated disproportionatley by the CIF-SS in ALL of it’s rulings.
    It’s saying that a school with literally hundreds of CIF and state titles in all sports; where the CIF plays some of their own championships; where 99% of all the posters here, on OCvarsity, Varsity Times and any other message board you can name think the CIF never does anything to punish Mater Dei because of the money they make… what this lawsuit is aying is that Mater Dei has been treated unfairly by the CIF!!!
    Sorry but that is absolutely laughable.

  • jcaz

    Truth be told I do not know what remedy the plaintiffs seek, other than that which what you have just posted.

    However, I for one cant imagine that the the court will ultimately rule on a such a narrow subject matter sch as weather or not Mater Dai alone has been unduly penalized by the denial of these kids to transfer to their school.

    What I see here is the “possibility” of precedence in that any future action by a plaintiff may very well stand a better chance of success if there were a ruling striking down the present rule that CIF has here. Keep in mind that a rule by any organization or intitution is never a Law. In general terms, only a court can ultimalty establish what the law is and I for one, am hopeing that Mater Dai can receive a favorable ruling here and allow all kids an opportunity to play sports where ever they choose to do so.

  • EvanLeigh

    Jcaz- that is what Eric is saying in his article and he HAS read the complaint.
    And ruling against the CIF is a ruling against Mater Dei as the schools ARE the CIF. That is what Staunton is saying when he states there was a process to have the grievance heard and Mater Dei has not followed.
    Ultimately, that is why they will lose the case as they did not exhaust all possible procedures within the framework of the organization. It may even cost them their membership as there is a CIF rule that states that a member school cannot sue the organization and the punishment is getting kicked out of the CIF.

  • jcaz

    EvanLeigh

    Understood, but can we really imagine a CIF without Mater Dai ?

    It’s like this.

    You or I get arrested for doing some nefarious act. Ww spending an unspecified amount of time incarcerated before we are even given an opportunity to post bail (Heaven forbid it’s on a weekend here in Los Angeles county).

    At the same time Pairs Hilton gets arrested for position of a substanace which could led to a felony conviction….. and she is released witin minuites of her arrest.

    Get it ?

    No matter the outcome, Nothing happens to Mater Dai here my good friend.

  • Warren

    Coming from the east coast myself and understanding the area and the way of life I feel can speak up about this situation. My heart goes out to the young man and his family, any death in a family or friends is mind boggling. Safety is of utmost concern. I am glad that Mater Dei (MD) can open its arms and help this boy out. However, a couple of points here. MD is the largest Catholic High school in the country as I have been told and the tuition at MD is quite high. To take a boy out of a dangerous situation is good but why MD? Why not go to another school? Is he a good football player, a Montana son? Will he be their water boy? I don’t know the situation but why not follow all the rules correctly? I feel The CIF is correct on this one. There are many player in bad areas they could help locally and I know he is a friend and you help your own. Just do it correctly they had time. How many kids do the private school get that are athletically motivated? None huh? I hope the boy and his family are fine and he gets over this but rules are rules just follow them and keep it out of the courts. The biggest injustice is allowing any transfers after the freshman year unless it is done correctly.

  • Basic

    I am of the opinion to let kids where they want to play, if your schools in not helping you or you have a fall out with the coach why can’t you take advantage of another opportunity?

    I still go back to a suit by a kid and not the school, if a kid sues that the CIF caused him a scholarship (200k) by not allowing him to play, then I think he has a shot…

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