By Fred Robledo
In a stunning turn of events, former San Dimas High School running back and senior Jake Payton, who transferred to Upland only to be declared ineligible by the CIF-Southern Section in July because of an athletically motivated transfer, enrolled at Bonita on Friday.
Payton had an appeal hearing scheduled with CIF on Sept. 5 in hopes of gaining his eligibility at Upland, but he apparently nixed those plans.
With the Valley’s biggest rivalry, the Smudge Pot set to kick off the high school football season Thursday between Bonita and San Dimas at Citrus College, Payton’s latest change of address should create quite a stir.
“My understanding is that he (Payton) applied for a permit at Bonita under the Allen Bill,” Bonita Unified assistant superintendent Curtis Frick said. “That is (Allen Bill) when an employee works in the district, children can attend their schools.”
Payton, who is under the foster care of Peter and Shara Lyons, enrolled at Upland because according to the Lyons family, they moved to the Upland school district from Claremont.
However, because Shara Lyons is a counselor at Lone Hill Middle School in San Dimas, which is in the Bonita Unified School District, Payton was admitted to Bonita, though his athletic eligibility is still up in the air.
Payton, a Tribune All-Area choice at running back for the Saints and the reigning Valle Vista League MVP, rushed for 1,628 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2012.
San Dimas originally said it would not challenge Payton’s decision to leave for Upland, but Saints coach Bill Zernickow confirmed the school had a change of heart in July when it challenged Payton’s transfer to Upland for athletically motivated reasons, which CIF upheld.
“We had a change of heart, it’s a group decision,” Zernickow said at the time. “My opinion is that you can’t say nothing if something happened.”
Meanwhile, just last week, the Bonita Unified School District launched an investigation after Peter Lyons alleged that the San Dimas High school football coaching staff put players on a weight-gain plan and provided them with nutritional supplements in the form of shakes to help them reach weight goals.
Lyons provided the District with a list of 23 current and former players who he said acknowledged receiving or seeing others receive shakes by Zernickow or his assistants. The content of the shakes could not be verified, nor could other allegations alleged by Lyons.
It is a violation of the coaches code of ethics under CIF State rule 22B12 to give athletes anything other than non-muscle building nutritional supplements.
“We’re looking into what the complaint is,” Frick said last week. ““We’re conducting an investigation. At the district level, there’s one complaint that has come forth. As part of the complaint, there were names named within all of that and as we do the investigation we’re following up with folks as they come up.
“We’re making sure that we’re following all the leads on it. We’re trying to be as swift as we can in this investigation.”
Frick said the District is wrapping up their investigation and hopes to make a statement on Monday.
Zernickow and his staff have remained on the job while the investigation is taking place. Zernickow also said he wouldn’t comment on the “shakes” allegations, nor did he want to comment about Payton’s transfer to rival Bonita.
On the CIF transfer website, Bonita athletic director Eric Podley already has submitted a transfer request in hopes of Payton gaining his eligibility.
“He (Podley) submitted paperwork through our system (to gain elibility at Bonita) but before it is officially accepted the previous school (San Dimas) has to sign off or take issue before we begin our process,” explained CIF-SS spokesperson Thom Simmons.
Does that mean San Dimas could contest Payton’s transfer all over again?
“They could if they so choose,” Simmons said.
Once again, the ball is in San Dimas’ court. What will it do?