Montclair Prep Officials Angry, Philosophical About Ouster

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reaction among Montclair Prep officials and coaches ranged from resignation to outrage Thursday, one day after the Van Nuys school had been ousted from the Alpha League by a vote of league members.

Principal V. E. (Doc) Simpson and boys' basketball co-Coach Bob Webb were philosophical about the expulsion, saying they expected the action. But baseball Coach Walt Steele and football Coach George Giannini expressed anger.

Steele, who guided the Mounties to Southern Section 1-A Division titles in 1990 and '91, said late Wednesday night that the action was taken largely because of the school's athletic success, rather than as a punitive measure for past infractions, which include football recruiting violations. The Southern Section has banned the school from postseason competition this school year in all sports.

Alpha League principals had said in a statement that their decision was based on "philosophical differences and strength of program." Steele interpreted that as an admission that their athletic programs are inferior and unwilling to go the extra yard.

"I go to coaching clinics in the summer and none of the other schools have anybody there," Steele said. "We try to improve as coaches and players. We do things that beat them and embarrass them, and they kick us out of the league?

"The way I see it, we're so much better as coaches and players that they just can't beat us."

Giannini, who guided the Mounties to the 1990 Division X football title, said the league's decision sets a dangerous precedent.

"It means that any school that wins a league title several times in a row is running the risk of being kicked out for being too good," he said.

Simpson and Webb were more subdued about the league's 5-0 vote to oust Montclair Prep, which reduces the school to free-lance status starting next school year.

"I was really down when I came in this morning," Simpson said Thursday. "But the coaches said, 'Doc, don't worry about it. We have a good program here, and we're going to keep it that way.' "

Webb agreed.

"Now that the decision has been made, we just have to deal with it," he said. "It's not the end of the world, but we can see it from here."

Montclair Prep must wait until the 1994 releaguing cycle to join another league, unless the school can find a league to accept it by next fall. School officials said that is unlikely.

Despite Wednesday's vote, four of the five league members--L. A. Baptist has not decided--agreed to honor football commitments with the private school. There is a good chance they will do likewise in all sports.

"I've told my athletic director to expect to keep them on the schedule in everything," said Steve Allen, the Maranatha principal and Alpha League president. "They'll just be nonleague games now."

Gary Smidderks, L. A. Baptist principal, said that no edict was delivered Wednesday regarding the matter.

"We urged schools to continue scheduling (Montclair Prep) to help them because of the lateness of the decision," Smidderks said. "However, if a school felt it was unable to be competitive with Montclair Prep in a particular sport, it could opt out of its commitment."

Playing as a free-lance team could prevent Montclair Prep from attracting top athletes, but Giannini and Webb say the opposite is true.

They said coaches at the school have discussed upgrading their schedules with larger schools, and Wednesday's decision will speed up the process.

"The knock against Montclair Prep in the past has been that we beat up on little schools," Giannini said. "But we'll start to schedule games against bigger schools, and that will attract athletes who might not have come here before."

Webb would like to join the seven-team Delphic League, which includes Faith Baptist and Campbell Hall, winners of the past two Division V-AA boys' basketball titles.

"We're not looking to be a great team in a small league," Webb said. "I'd rather be in a league with a lot of good competition, and the Delphic League fits that description."

Steele, who does not expect the other Alpha League teams to continue to play Montclair Prep in baseball, said that getting tossed out of the league puts its teams in a precarious situation with respect to postseason play.

"What are we supposed to do for games (next year?)" he said. "Play a bunch of games against the (5-A Division) Mission League or Marmonte League? If we finish with a 10-8 record, we don't make the playoffs as a free-lance team.

"There's no way that anybody from our own division will play us now because (they all will be) trying to boost their preseason records."

Staff writer Steve Elling contributed to this story.

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