Five Calif. players banned for entire second seasons by odd rule

Cameron Smith

After playing an entire freshman football season at their high school of choice, five California players were handed a harsh penalty when they learned they were banned from competition on the varsity team as sophomores because of a unique rule in California designed to keep players from transferring to schools for whom prior coaches work.

Santa Clarita Hart football helmet

As reported by the Santa Clarita Valley Signal, five players for Santa Clarita (Calif.) Hart High were suspended for the entire 2012 varsity season because they were deemed to have followed football new Hart freshman football coaches Scott French, who is pictured below, and Deron White to the school. The players' identities were not revealed. The school also agreed to suspend one sophomore from the first four games of the following varsity campaign.

Hart freshman football coach Scott French

"This is not a Hart freshman football issue. This is a Hart District athletics issue," Hart principal Collyn Nielsen told the Signal. "We have club coaches on campus. We value their work. They are a great resource for us. I'm sure there are a number of situations across the district and Southern Section similar to ours."

According to the Signal, others had complained that the five players in question had become a part of the Hart program simply to re-join with French and White, but the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section failed to investigate the players' eligibility until after the freshman team's 10-0 season was complete.

While the rule that makes the players ineligible may seem bizarre and complex, it's intention is quite clear: To keep players from switching schools just because their former coaches take a new job. The rule, CIF-Southern Section Bylaw 510, is spelled out in full in the Signal article.

Still, while some have alleged impropriety in how Hart rearranged its coaching staff to accommodate French and White in the program, both Neilsen and Hart head football coach Mike Herrington insisted that the program was on steady footing and gave no indication that the freshmen coaches wouldn't be retained for the 2012 season.

"There was no allegation of recruiting, there is nothing proven, there is no evidence to that," Herrington told the Signal. "The reason it came about is because there is a CIF rule there and there has been a lot of investigation.

"As far as I'm concerned everything is fine in the program."

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