ORANGE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL / PREP EXTRA : Mater Dei Asks Out of Public League : Athletics: Monarchs would like to rejoin a Catholic school league for the 1998-99 school year.


Mater Dei has requested to leave the South Coast League and rejoin a Catholic league in 1998, according to a Catholic Athletic Assn. official.

Mater Dei Principal Pat Murphy said he has had "discussions" with the Southern Section and the CAA about being placed with other Catholic schools. But Southern Section and CAA officials said Mater Dei has formally requested the move for the 1998 league realignment, which will begin next year.

"It's my understand in talking with Southern Section officials, that Mater Dei will be placed in the parochial area," said Mission Hills Alemany Principal Robert Milbauer, president of the Catholic Athletic Assn.

Mater Dei spent 31 years in the Angelus League before moving to the South Coast League in 1992. Mater Dei could be lumped with other former the Angelus League teams--La Puente Bishop Amat, Los Angeles Loyola and Santa Fe Springs St. Paul--and one or two other schools, Milbauer said. But some CAA members are not eager to face the Monarchs as a league opponent.

Servite and Santa Margarita, Orange County's two other large Catholic schools, have not asked to rejoin a Catholic League, according to the CAA.

Murphy said Mater Dei wants to move because of financial concerns. Other officials said the move is due partly to how Mater Dei has been treated by other South Coast League schools. Mater Dei, which like other private schools has no enrollment boundaries, is the only private school in the league. Opponents have said the lack of enrollment boundaries gives the Monarchs an advantage.

Murphy denied the animosity among schools.

"Administrators and people involved in athletics have been very friendly to us," Murphy said.

But there have been some incidents:

--Trabuco Hills basketball Coach Rainer Wulf declared that his team was "the South Coast League public school champion" last year after finishing second to Mater Dei.

--The league's basketball coaches voted on all-league teams before Monarch Coach Gary McKnight arrived. They later said they didn't want to have Mater Dei dictate who should be on the team.

--Trabuco Hills' football coach Jim Barnett resigned at the end of last season in part because the league was "stuck with [Mater Dei] until who knows when."

Last fall, Mater Dei officials asked the CAA to allow the Monarch football team to compete in a Catholic league for the 1997 season. The request was denied, according to Milbauer, who said the leagues already were set for that season.

That led to a second request last spring, Milbauer said.

Mater Dei has one of the best football programs in Southern California, winning two Division I championships since 1991. The Monarch boys' basketball program is one of the best in the nation, winning three State titles and 10 section championships.

"They have a very consistent and very animated athletic program," Bellflower St. John Bosco Principal Bill Goodman said. "We try to form our leagues based on strength of program, population and other criteria. We don't have any schools of their enrollment any longer. I'm not sure we have that many co-ed schools any longer."

Said Loyola Principal Robert Walsh: "It's going to be an interesting set of discussions, to say the least."

Walsh and Goodman both said transportation would be a concern. It is the same argument Mater Dei officials used during their yearlong battle to be admitted into an Orange County public league.

But Southern Section Commissioner Dean Crowley said it is unlikely that Mater Dei would be denied entry into the parochial league. Section rules regarding league realignment say such a request would be denied only if it was "detrimental to the area's other schools."

"That would be tough to show since Mater Dei participated in the parochial area for many years," Crowley said.

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