Augustine Herrera would like to set the record straight.
The Banning High principal says the selection Tuesday of Joe Dominguez as the Pilots' football coach had nothing to do with outside influences, namely the booster club.
It had been rumored, and reported in one newspaper, that the booster club was going to pick the next coach after John Hazelton was fired Friday.
"Give me a break," Herrera said. "That is totally untrue. It was my decision and my decision only. I did not consult the boosters. I think the booster club is embarrassed by reports to the contrary."
Booster club President Julian Rodriguez has said that his people were not involved in the hiring and firing.
OK, so that's settled. But what about those who contend the only reason Hazelton was fired was because Banning, traditionally a power in L. . City football, was 6-4 and lost in the first round of the playoffs last season?
Again, Herrera would like to clarify the issue.
"You have to understand that I like John Hazelton as a person," he said. "I think he worked as hard as he knows how to work. He gave 100%. His ability as a coach was not an issue. The issue was his hire-ability as a teacher."
Asked if it would have made a difference if Banning had won the City title last season, Herrera replied: "It would have been more difficult to let him go, but that was my plan."
Herrera says the reason he released Hazelton was because he never liked the idea of having a non-faculty coach. He says of the 49 high schools in the City section, only Banning had a walk-on head football coach last season.
Dominguez, an assistant for 12 years under former Coach Chris Ferragamo, is the physical education chairman at the school.
"It's best for every program to have a faculty member who is directly responsible to the principal as the coach of a varsity sport," Herrera said. "Whether it was fair or not is not the question. The question is what was right for this school and these kids.
"Everybody who works with our teams has to be considered a teacher first. We are a faculty. We have to influence young people as teachers first, coaches second."
Herrera said when he took over as principal last May that Hazelton had been hired by former Principal Estella Pena with the understanding that he was to earn a teaching credential by the summer of 1988.
Herrera said he did not wait for the deadline because he did not believe Hazelton was close to earning a teaching credential.
"I saw very little progress toward that goal," he said. "He never brought in proof that he was going to school. I don't even know what school he was attending."
Hazelton has argued that his busy schedule at Banning prevented pursuing a teaching credential aggressively.
Regardless, Herrera has made his decision and, in Dominguez, he has his man.
"There were never any other candidates," he admitted. "Mr. Dominguez is a faculty member. He was a longtime and well-known assistant under Coach Ferragamo. He graduated from Banning High School. He was raised in this community. He is familiar with the school and the community. He has credibility with his peers and other coaches. He was the logical choice."
Dominguez was the school's first choice to succeed Ferragamo, but he turned down the job and followed Ferragamo to Harbor College where he served as the offensive coordinator last season.
Dominguez said he didn't take the Banning job because he felt pressure from others. A year later, he is more comfortable with the role of head coach.
Bill Stansbury, co-head football coach at Beverly Hills, says a recent Times story about prep releaguing in the South Bay incorrectly reported that the school's enrollment falls between 2,500 and 3,000 students and appears to be growing.
Stansbury says Beverly Hills' enrollment is 2,250 and will drop to about 2,100 next year.
"We're not growing," he said. "We're going the other way."
All-Star third baseman George Brett of the Kansas City Royals will play Saturday in the eighth annual El Segundo High Baseball Alumni Game and Eagle Family Reunion.
Pregame festivities start at 10 a.m. at Recreation Park. The 1 p.m. game will be preceded by a home run contest and a photo and autograph session.
Other alumni expected to participate are Baltimore Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor, American League umpire Darryl Cousins and former major league pitcher Ken Brett.
Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for persons under 18. Proceeds go to the school baseball program.
PREP NOTES--Anyone interested in becoming a high school umpire may attend the first meeting of the South Bay unit of the Southern California Baseball Officials Assn. at 7 p.m. Monday at El Segundo High. Further information can be obtained by calling Jim Pacheco at (213) 322-6437. . . . Ratings game: Rolling Hills, winner of seven straight games, moved up to the No. 2 ranking in the CIF 3-A Division basketball poll and the No. 5 spot in the state Division II ratings, compiled by Cal-Hi Sports. West Torrance is ranked No. 4 in 3-A and No. 9 in the state Division II, while Morningside is No. 6 in both the 3-A and state Division III rankings. Although Morningside is in the same Southern Section division as Rolling Hills and West, the Monarchs are in a lower state division because of enrollment. Westchester, which lost two games last week, dropped to No. 9 in the state Division I poll and fell out of the USA Today Super 25. Crenshaw, which beat Westchester 99-96 on Friday, is the No. 1 team in the nation. Chadwick is ranked No. 7 in the state Division V ratings. Morningside's girls are No. 1 in the state Division I and CIF 4-A polls.
South Bay Top 10 Boys' Basketball Selected by Times sportswriters (Records through Tuesday's games)
Rank, School, League Record 1 Westchester (Central) 15-3 2 Rolling Hills (Bay) 15-4 3 West Torrance (Bay) 15-4 4 Morningside (Pioneer) 13-6 5 St. Bernard (Angelus) 13-6 6 Carson (Marine) 13-4 7 Inglewood (Ocean) 10-8 8 Leuzinger (Pioneer) 12-4 9 Palos Verdes (Bay) 11-8 10 San Pedro (Marine) 7-7