Fagans Left Legacy on Southern California Sports Scene
With a secretary and a small office, J. Kenneth Fagans built the CIF Southern Section into one of the country’s largest and most powerful high school athletic associations.
When he retired as commissioner in 1975 after 21 years, the section had grown from 218 schools to 458. The number of sports had expanded from 11 for boys to 22 for boys and girls.
“Kenny oversaw the largest high school athletic expansion this state has ever seen, and he didn’t have a lot of help early on,” said Thomas Byrnes, CIF commissioner. “He did his job with an innovation not often seen on this level.”
Byrnes, who was hired by Fagans as a section administrator in 1973, was saddened by the news of his former boss’ death over the weekend. Fagans suffered a massive heart attack Saturday night at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach. He was 84.
Margaret Davis, CIF associate commissioner, said Fagans stayed in power for so long because he surrounded himself with successful colleagues who were not afraid to offer opinions or criticisms.
She remembers Fagans as the man who helped accelerate the growth of girls’ sports. The Southern Section held the first girls’ athletic event in the state, a swimming invitational at Beverly Hills High in 1970, two years before Title IX was passed.
“He believed in change, and he was not afraid to make the necessary moves,” she said. “He always stayed a step ahead of everyone else.”
After retiring, Fagans stayed active in the Southern Section. He was a member of its alumni committee and wrote a column in the newsletter. As his health began deteriorating, he gradually cut back. He was too sick to attend the State basketball tournament, his favorite event, in Oakland earlier this month.
Fagans was a basketball star at Huntington Park High and Oregon State. He later coached the sport at Compton High, where his teams won 53 consecutive games from 1950-53. He was an assistant principal at Compton Centennial before joining the Southern Section.
“Kenny Fagans was the CIF, and that is how those of us who worked with him will remember him,” said Dean Crowley, Southern Section commissioner.
Mark Paredes, who resigned as football coach and athletic director at La Puente Bishop Amat last week, said he had been considering a change for some time.
“I’ve sent out about one resume a year for the last several years,” he said. “I’m slow to change, but I felt this was the right move for me now.”
Paredes, 41, will leave in June to become the coach at Riverside North.
He has been at Bishop Amat for 18 years, the last eight as football coach. He has an 84-14 record and has won eight league titles and a Southern Section title. The Lancers were 15-0 in 1992, setting a state record for most victories in a season.
Paredes said the high visibility of the program was not a factor in his resignation.
“I’ve always let the program speak for itself,” he said. “But this decision seems to be shocking everyone but me. It’s something I’ve often thought about.”
No decision has been made concerning a successor. Paredes said he will sit down with the school’s administrators in the coming weeks to discuss the options.
Prep baseball in Southern California is among the best in the country. A half-dozen local schools have been mentioned in various preseason national polls.
Once again, Simi Valley is the team mentioned most often. The Pioneers were No. 1 much of last season before being upset by Anaheim Esperanza in the Southern Section Division I final, 3-0.
Coach Mike Scyphers’ program is so solid that although only two experienced seniors return, Simi Valley is expected to contend for a section championship. Back are right-handed pitcher Bill Scheffels, who was 11-2 with a 1.17 earned-run average last year, and third baseman Ryan Hankins, who batted .500, drove in 57 runs and hit 12 home runs.
Organized baseball’s amateur draft in June figures to involve many local players.
At the top of the list is Brett Nista, an infielder from Laguna Hills. The senior, who already has signed with UCLA, batted .430, had 29 RBIs and 11 home runs, and stole 16 bases in 16 tries last season.
Another prospect is Jaret Wright of Anaheim Katella. The right-handed pitcher was 4-3 with a 3.01 ERA last season, but his fastball has been clocked at 94 m.p.h, The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior also has the size scouts like.
Wright, who had 80 strikeouts and hit seven home runs as a junior, is the son of former Angel Clyde Wright.
One of the top prospects at catcher is Jeremy Booth of Beverly Hills. Booth, 6-5 and 230, batted .562 and had a fielding average of .991 last season.
Another player to watch is Derek Nicholson of West Torrance. The shortstop batted .520 and had five triples and 16 doubles last season.
Amy Skieresz of Agoura High, the defending Southern Section Division I champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, is sitting out this track season to concentrate on her studies.
Skieresz, a junior, is academically eligible to compete, according to her coach, Bill Duley. But Duley said her grades did not meet her parents’ standards.
After finishing third in the 1,600 at the State meet in 1992, Skieresz was expected to contend for the title last season. But she contracted mononucleosis before a qualifying meet and did not run. She is a two-time Division I state champion in cross-country.
For the first time in four years, there is no Marion Jones to watch during the track season. The state’s all-time sprint leader, who won nine individual titles while at Oxnard Rio Mesa and Thousand Oaks, is in her first year at North Carolina.
And things are returning to normal at Thousand Oaks.
“I think the telephone calls and the interviews wear on you,” said Art Green, Thousand Oaks’ coach. “And that’s nothing against the kid, but it does take a toll on you.”
Green said he has a young team that could compete for a Marmonte League title. For a change, however, the Lancers’ top runner is not a sprinter. Sophomore Kim Mortensen runs the 1,600 and 3,200. She placed 10th in the Foot Locker West regional cross-country meet last December.
The City Section may have a new football playoff format next fall.
The Los Angeles Football Coaches Assn., which represents the section’s 49 high schools, is proposing that teams not be designated as Division 4-A or 3-A until the regular season is complete. Placement then would be based on record and strength of schedule, with tougher teams in 4-A.
Under the plan, each of the six conference champions automatically would in the 4-A bracket and the remaining 10 teams would be chosen subjectively. Formal ratification is expected at the section’s Interscholastic Athletic Committee meeting in May.
Guard Nicole Erickson of Brea-Olinda and center Olympia Scott of Playa del Rey St. Bernard will represent California in the third Kodak All-American girls’ basketball game on April 16 at Jackson, Tenn. Guards Timicha Kirby of Lynwood and Mimi McKinney of Palos Verdes Peninsula were selected as alternates.
Mark Schuster, the football coach at Azusa the last nine years, is the new coach at Corona del Mar. He replaces Dave Holland, who guided the Sea Kings to two Southern Section titles in 20 years. . . . Shane Wiley is the new football coach at Riverside Poly, replacing Dan Armstrong who stepped down after one season. A Poly assistant the last three years, Wiley, 26, becomes one of the Southland’s youngest coaches. . . . Jim Brownfield, longtime football and girls’ track coach at Pasadena Muir, will be honored at a retirement dinner and roast Friday night in Pasadena.
The Brea-Olinda girls’ basketball team finished the season No. 1 in USA Today. The Ladycats (33-0) extended their winning streak to 54 by defeating San Jose Archbishop Mitty for the State Division III title on March 19, 54-44. Meanwhile, Crenshaw (29-2) finished No. 3 in the boys’ basketball poll after beating Carmichael Jesuit for its sixth State Division I title in 12 years, 89-79.