Southern Section Hears Victor Valley Case : Prep basketball: Was Dec. 6 altercation between officials and three players the fault of the officials or the players?


The Southern Section executive committee will have an open hearing today to determine what happened at the conclusion of a boys' high school basketball game between La Verne Damien and Victor Valley last Dec. 6 in the Riverside Kiwanis tournament at Moreno Valley High School.

Damien won the game, 53-51, on two free throws with one second left in the game, after which there was a skirmish between officials Al Jury and Dick Smith and three Victor Valley players.

A foul call by Jury had put Damien in position to win the game from the free-throw line. With the score tied, 51-51, and Victor Valley putting the ball in play underneath its own basket, Jury called a foul on a Victor Valley player for pushing off before the Jackrabbits could inbound the ball.

Reports vary on what occurred once the game ended, but a shoving match turned into a brawl involving Jury, Smith and Victor Valley players Carlton Hyder, Thomas Wilkens and Michael Butler, son of Jackrabbit Coach Oliver Butler.

The players were suspended for three days by the Victor Valley School Board, then the Southern Section suspended them until today's hearing. Jury and Smith have continued to officiate.

Smith declined to comment on the case and Jury could not be reached.

Oliver Butler, who had argued with Jury during the game, said that the scene could have been prevented.

"If (Jury and Smith) had left the court, like they are supposed to after the game, like any other two officials in the state, there would not have been a problem," said Butler, who has coached at Victor Valley for 33 years.

"They continued to stay around and berate my players beyond belief. I was trying to get my team into the locker room when I saw Jury shoving one of my players. I told him to get his hands off of the kid. Jury was definitely the aggressor."

Damien's coach, Mike Seaman, said that there had been bad feeling between the officials and Victor Valley before the game, but he agreed with Butler.

"It was the refs' fault in that they did not leave the court after our game," Seaman said. "I know that they had to officiate the next game, but they could have gone into the Damien locker room. After the game ended, I went into our locker room and then came back out to the court, and they were still out there."

Complaints against Jury, who is also a 12-year veteran official of the National Football League and has officiated in the Super Bowl, and Smith, who assigns officials in the San Bernardino area and is regarded as one of the area's best, are not uncommon.

Barstow Coach Richard Shibley, who has coached games officiated by Jury and Smith for 15 years, wrote a letter to Dean Crowley, associate commissioner of the Southern Section, regarding them on Dec. 15.

"My overall observation of these two officials is that they are unapproachable, unwilling to listen or take criticism, tend to hold grudges, (are) arrogant, and at times show favoritism," reads a portion of the letter.

Redlands Principal Tom Davis also wrote to Crowley, on Feb. 8, 1988, formally requesting that Jury and Smith not be allowed to officiate Redlands games because of what he said was their negative influence on coaches, contests and athletics.

Jury and Smith also have received praise for their work.

"I have seen them both officiate before in the playoffs over the years, and I think that they are great officials," Seaman said. "But, I think it is a thing where if 200 people wrote letters on their character, 100 would be good and 100 would say they were horrible."

Seaman also defended Jury's late foul call. "It was a definite foul, but most officials would not make that call at that time because they do not have the guts," he said.

Butler, who won the 600th game of his career Wednesday night, said he does not expect a fair hearing in the Southern Section offices in Cerritos.

"I think that the hearing is just going to be a kangaroo court on me," he said. "Despite the ton of evidence showing the overbearing arrogance of Jury being well recorded, I don't think that that matters to the CIF."

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