Muir Exonerated in Eligibility Dispute : Football: Playoff foe Thousand Oaks continues to raise doubts over players' standing based on late academic reports.


Suspicions by Thousand Oaks High officials that Muir's football team wrongfully used certain players in its Southern Section playoff game Friday are unfounded, according to Southern Section and Pasadena Unified School District officials.

Although seven members of Muir's team were ruled ineligible as a result of grade reports received by Muir officials last Wednesday, school district policy stipulates that no player had to be dropped from the team until Monday.

The grading situation was further muddled when the district computer system failed to produce grades until more than a week later than usual. Had the grades been released on time, those seven players could not have played against Thousand Oaks. Muir won the Division II semifinal game, 9-3, in overtime, and will play Santa Barbara in the final Saturday.

Acting on a tip, Lance Erie, Thousand Oaks' principal, voiced concerns about the possible use of ineligible players to Southern Section official Bill Clark on Monday and Muir Principal Alvin Fortune on Tuesday.

"The only thing we can rely on is the integrity of the school," Erie said. "And I'm not going to question the integrity of a school unless someone steps forward with some information."

However, when Erie learned that Muir knew of the players' standing two days before the game, he said he would contact the Southern Section office today to discuss "the interpretation and application of that rule." Because of delays caused by computer difficulties, the players should have been immediately ruled ineligible, according to Erie. "My sense of it," he said, "is that you don't wait any longer."

Fred Bernthal, Muir's athletic director, maintains that the computer failure was district-wide, also affecting Blair, Pasadena and Marshall Fundamental highs, a contention supported by district officials. Bernthal added that he also would have waited the extra four days had football players been awaiting reinstatement.

Because of several recent run-ins with the Southern Section, including one in the 1987 season that caused the Mustangs to forfeit eight games because of ineligible players, Muir has earned a reputation for not policing incidents such as these, Bernthal said.

Southern Section bylaws state that if a grading period ends and grades cannot be distributed because of computer difficulties, a grade check cannot be made just for athletes.

Thousand Oaks Coach Bob Richards said that he felt hoodwinked by the loss and the subsequent discoveries.

"This is a decision by the letter of some rule and maybe not the intent," he said. "Knowing what I know, I feel our team has been cheated."

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