Harry Welch's future with the Canyon High football program, jeopardized by a controversy that has dragged on for three months, probably will be clear Monday when a San Fernando Superior Court judge rules on Welch's bid for a preliminary injunction to keep his job.
Welch is basing his request before Judge Haig Kechejian on the premise that the Southern Section acted unfairly when it recommended that he sit out the 1991 season for conducting an off-season practice in violation of Southern Section rules. Welch has questioned the integrity of the Southern Section and Commissioner Stan Thomas during the controversy and continued that attack Friday after reading the legal brief submitted by the Southern Section to Kechejian.
"I'm frustrated and disappointed because they have misrepresented the case," Welch said. "What they have submitted to my mind is not to be respected. When I saw what they wrote, I could not believe they would put their name to that."
Welch directs his ire at claims in the Southern Section brief that Welch has admitted guilt to charges that he conducted a practice in violation of section rules.
Welch has admitted that a violation took place but that he did not commit it. Canyon Principal Bill White has admitted that violations were committed in the school's football program but has said the penalty against Welch is too severe.
The Southern Section brief states that a Southern Section appeals panel on July 9 agreed with the section's recommendation to penalize Welch. The panel actually called for an investigation of Welch.
A week after that hearing, rather than face an investigation, White accepted a Southern Section recommendation to suspend Welch until Dec. 31.
Welch then sought and won a temporary restraining order July 31 and was reinstated as coach pending Monday's hearing.
"The (Southern Section) says that the panel decided that I should be penalized," Welch said. "If that's accurate, I'll take the suspension and drop this right now.
"It's very irritating that they would make documented misstatements again and again. The (Southern Section) doesn't have to resort to this to be effective. If the (Southern Section) can misstate itself, they may be getting in the way of justice."
Thomas was unavailable for comment Friday.
Welch's attorney, Stephen J. Tully, said his client's case not only hinges on the claim that Welch has been treated unfairly but that the Southern Section has no jurisdiction over Welch. Technically, the Southern Section makes recommendations to member schools, which can enforce those recommendations if the schools so choose.
In its brief, the Southern Section cites Welch's failure to exhaust all administrative remedies as a reason for opposing the request for an injunction.
Tully also claims the Southern Section rules manual--the so-called Blue Book--outlines no provision for the CIF to stay the penalty, which is the intent of the preliminary injunction.
"I can't find anything in (CIF) rule 1103 that says state (CIF) appellate rules provide that," he said.
"If either the Southern Section or the state were to allow Harry to coach pending a determination at the state level, Harry would consider that option. But I don't think the state or the Southern Section has any jurisdiction over Harry at all. I feel we have to go to the courts anyway."
The Southern Section also bases its case on Canyon's admission of guilt and the section's obligation and right to enforce section rules, characterizing Welch's behavior as "unsportsmanlike conduct at its highest degree."
Welch scoffs at that characterization and eagerly awaits Kechejian's ruling.
The coach has not decided what, if any, action to take if Kechejian denies the injunction.
"I feel great about Monday," Welch said. "Whether we win or lose, what's good about America is going to happen in the open. The judge will have an opportunity to see all the facts. I feel justice is taking place."
A May 19 photograph in the Newhall Signal showed a Canyon High football player hitting a blocking dummy with teammates and an assistant coach watching. Southern Section rules prohibit the use of sleds and blocking dummies in the off-season. Coach Harry Welch admits that a violation occurred but denies that he is guilty of wrongdoing. After the section recommended a one-year suspension of Welch and an investigation of the Canyon football program, Canyon Principal Bill White accepted a recommendation for a 5 1/2-month suspension of Welch rather than face the investigation. Welch sought and earned a temporary restraining order July 31 and was reinstated as coach pending his request Monday for a preliminary injunction to regain his job.
The Welch Years at Canyon High
1982: Welch, then 37, named varsity coach at Canyon.
1983: Canyon wins first of three consecutive Southern Section titles.
1983-86: Welch coaches Canyon to Southern Section-record-tying 46 consecutive wins.
Dec. 2, 1989: Canyon loses to Santa Barbara, 28-27, in infamous "fifth-down" game. Welch admits to breaking a trophy case in postgame melee.
Aug. 30, 1990: Canyon trounces St. Louis of Hawaii, 40-0, in Honolulu, ending St. Louis' streak at 55 games, longest in the nation at the time.
Sept. 6, 1990: Citing health considerations and what he regarded as an "overburdened" teaching schedule, Welch announces his resignation effective at the end of the season.
Dec. 1, 1990: Canyon plays in eighth consecutive Southern Section semifinal, losing to eventual Division I champion Loyola, 10-3.
Jan. 16, 1991: Welch announces he will return to coach next season at Canyon after some concessions by the school regarding his teaching schedule.
May 19: Newhall Signal publishes photo of Canyon football player hitting a blocking dummy in presence of several teammates and assistant coach Brian Stiman. The practice session is in violation of Southern Section rules.
June 10: Southern Section Commissioner Stan Thomas conducts investigation of incident at Canyon High.
June 21: Southern Section Executive Committee approves Thomas' recommendation of a one-year suspension for Welch.
July 9: A three-member Southern Section appeal panel votes to initiate "a full-blown investigation" before delivering a final ruling in the case.
July 11: Welch electes to contest the penalty.
July 15: Canyon Principal Bill White accepts Southern Section recommendation to suspend Welch until Dec. 31 instead of facing an investigation. Welch bids his players goodby and starts his suspension the next day.
July 25: White announces that he has opened his search for Welch's replacement to all candidates after Canyon assistants Enrique Lopez and Stiman reject offer to coach. Canyon refuses to give Welch written assurance that he will be rehired when his suspension ends, clouding Welch's future as coach at the school.
July 31: Welch seeks and wins a temporary restraining order and is reinstated as Canyon coach. Judge Haig Kechejian will rule Monday on Welch's request for a preliminary injunction, which probably will ensure that Welch will coach at Canyon this fall.
Welch's overall record at Canyon: 100 wins, 19 losses, 1 tie.
43 of 45 Golden League games won.
Won 7 of 9 Golden League titles.