Cathedral High's football team has been banned from the 2023 playoffs because of rules violations, the Southern Section announced Friday.
It's the first major decision by new Southern Section commissioner Mike West. The football program was placed on probation for violating bylaws involving valid residential change, administrative oversight and playoff eligibility.
"We're working to try to enforce the rules the best we can," West said.
The Southern Section has announced that the Cathedral football team has been put on probation and banned from the playoffs for the 2023 season. Sources indicate documents for transfer students were changed to help gain eligibility. More to come.
— eric sondheimer (@latsondheimer) September 15, 2023
The school released the following statement:
"The California Interscholastic Federation — Southern Section has informed us that Cathedral High's football program has been placed on probationary status and will not be permitted to participate in the 2023-24 CIF Southern Section Football championships due to violations of CIF-SS Bylaws 503 and 503A relating to administrative oversight. CHS took immediate action to remedy the issue once it was brought to our attention and the administration has been actively working with CIF-SS to avoid problems of this nature in the future. CHS may apply for reinstatement to full status for football after August 23, 2024, which the school fully intends to do. We are committed to the program. Regular season football games will proceed as scheduled this year and no other CHS sport is impacted by this CIF decision."
Arturo Lopez, the school's longtime soccer coach, took over as principal this year after the departure of Brother John Montgomery, who had been principal for 25 years. Lopez had been vice principal. Cathedral's top two administrators, Lopez and president Martin Farfan, continue to serve as coaches. Farfan runs the cross-country program.
“We have taken steps to remedy the situation that was brought to my attention,” Lopez said. “There was a lack of administrative oversight and we made those corrections.”
New protocols have been implemented in regard to handling transfer students, said Lopez, who added the school will not appeal the decision.
On Aug. 28, the school announced that football coach Anthony Jefferson had left the program two games into the season. Jefferson cited personal reasons.
Cathedral is 1-3 entering its game against Bishop Alemany on Friday night under interim coach Vince Jefferson (no relation). The school has had a proud football tradition, with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young playing quarterback for the Phantoms' for two seasons before transferring to Mater Dei.
Players and parents were informed of the coming sanctions Thursday. One parent said her son "broke down" after hearing the news.
Anthony Jefferson took over for Kevin Pearson in 2018. Pearson was head coach for 22 years and is now at Warren.
"It's very unfortunate for the kids who have invested in the program and are not able to participate in the playoffs," Pearson said. "I feel they are in good hands with the current coaching staff."
The Southern Section requires extensive paperwork to be filed to establish a transfer's eligibility. Parents have to show proof of a change in residency, such as a utility bill or driver's license. Any false information provided can result in sanctions against the player and the school.
Riverside Poly's basketball program was placed on probation last year after a district investigation found a scheme to submit false documents.
There were nearly 16,000 sports transfers in California last school year, according to data compiled by the CIF, the state's governing body of high school sports. Those who don't physically move have a sit-out period that is almost half the season before they become eligible.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.