Recruiting Inquiry Clears Montclair Prep

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Montclair Prep was given a clean bill of health Friday after Southern Section officials had paid a surprise visit to the private school in Van Nuys to investigate the possibility of recruiting violations involving the school's football program and its undefeated team.

Acting on a tip, Southern Section administrators Bill Clark and Dean Crowley arrived at the campus Friday to investigate the living arrangements of Derek and Leland Sparks, cousins who had transferred to Montclair Prep this fall. Derek, from Banning High in Wilmington, is the Valley area's leading rusher. Leland, from El Campo, Tex., is the team's quarterback.

The two players live in an apartment on campus with their uncle, Eric Sparks, and Donovan Roy and John Goldbaum, fellow juniors on the football team.

Had the players lived off campus in an apartment owned by the school that wasn't available to all students, the Southern Section could have invoked the anti-recruiting statute of the California Interscholastic Federation rules. That rule forbids schools from securing or retaining students through use of "undue influence." Providing special living arrangements for athletes would constitute undue influence.

But because Montclair Prep is a licensed boarding school, the living arrangement of the four athletes satisfies Southern Section regulations.

V. E. Simpson, the school's principal and founder, provided financial records that show the athletes pay rent for the apartment.

Eric Sparks has been hired by the school as the boarding school supervisor, campus caretaker and an assistant coach with the football team, according to Crowley. The four football players are the school's only boarders.

"It's a legit deal," Crowley said. "They (Montclair Prep) didn't have anything to hide."

Rumors of recruiting violations at the school had abounded since the start of football season.

The Southern Section investigation of Montclair Prep is the second in the past four years. Crowley investigated the eligibility of eight athletes Oct. 7, 1985, but no violations were found.

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