In a stunning turn of events which those close to the program have described as nearly unthinkable, Los Angeles-area school Van Nuys (Calif.) Montclair College Prep announced on Monday that it was eliminating the school's entire athletic department, beginning with the forthcoming 2011-12 school year.
The end of the school's competitive athletic programs leaves behind a significant void in the Southern California prep sports scene. The Montclair Prep Mounties captured 16 combined California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section titles in football, baseball, and boys and girls basketball since the school opened in 1956.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the school was forced to discontinue athletics as part of drastic cutbacks aimed at getting the private academy's finances back in line with projection. In addition to eliminating all sports, Montclair Prep will also reportedly stop teaching seventh and eighth grade, becoming an all-academic, 9-12 grade institution. It will also no longer offer any form of financial aid.
"As a result of this economy and overwhelming requests for financial aid, we had to restructure," Montclair Prep School director Mark Simpson told enrolled students in a statement which was obtained by the Times. "We're going back to where we started, offering a college-prep minded program for serious students. As time goes on, if we introduce sports back, it will happen over time."
While it's hard to understand precisely what led to the school's decision to eliminate sports, it's likely that the number of athletes it offered scholarships to was a factor. Montclair Prep's total enrollment was slightly above 200, but its robust sports offerings ensured that many of its students took part in some form of athletic extracurricular activity.
Now all those athletes will have to scramble to find new homes before the start of the 2011-12 season, a nearly unparalleled scenario which the CIF has said it will accommodate by offering hardship waivers to any Montclair Prep student seeking a transfer to a school that offers athletics.
"I really don't know much," Montclair Prep pitcher Max Fried, who has committed to play at UCLA, told the Times' Eric Sondheimer. "It happened a few hours ago. I had no idea. It's tough for me. We're going to have to sit down as a family."
- Montclair Prep