Sylmar High and Jeff Engilman, its fiery football coach, were hit with sanctions Thursday for violating a player contact rule of the Interscholastic Athletics Committee.
Engilman was slapped with a two-game suspension by the City Section rules committee for having contact on his campus with a player from outside the Sylmar attendance area.
Additionally, Sylmar’s current two-year probation period, which would have ended in three months, was extended to Sept. 14, 1997.
But the committee cleared Engilman of accusations made by school administrators and coaches from rival high schools that he recruited Taft running back Donald Carpenter and San Fernando linebacker Derrell Daniels.
Engilman, who is 86-17-2 in nine seasons and led the Spartans to City 4-A titles in 1992 and ’94, was reached by phone Thursday night but said he was instructed not to talk to the media.
Sylmar Principal Linda Calvo didn’t think the punishment fit the crime.
“I think it’s harsh and I think it’s unfair,” said Calvo, who attended the meeting.
Carpenter, who was kicked off the Taft football team for undisclosed reasons by Coach Troy Starr in mid-March, and Daniels worked out in the Sylmar weight room at least once with current and former Spartan football players.
On the day Daniels was in the weight room, Engilman walked in and met Daniels for the first time, Calvo said.
“The kid extended his hand and introduced himself to [Engilman],” Calvo said. “Jeff shook his hand, made a flip comment about the weight room, turned around and left the room.
“My point in my presentation was that [Engilman] was at his own school, in his own weight room doing what he was supposed to do . . . and there was this one brief encounter with a kid that lasted all of about 15 seconds.”
The rules committee didn’t see it that way. The fact that the player and Engilman had contact on Sylmar’s campus is in itself a violation, no matter how the meeting came about, City Section Commissioner Barbara Fiege said.
However, recruiting charges could not be substantiated.
“In regard to the students whose names were brought up, the rules committee did not find sufficient evidence in order to prove that there was a violation of Rule 143 [regarding recruitment],” Fiege said.
Engilman, winningest football coach in the region in the 1990s (68-7-1; .895), will not be allowed at the game sites of the Spartans’ first two nonconference games against Taft and Chatsworth. But Engilman can participate in all Sylmar practices and will return to the sideline for the Spartans’ third game, a first-time matchup with Southern Section Division II finalist Antelope Valley.
Several Taft and San Fernando administrators, along with their Sylmar counterparts, met Thursday with the 12-member rules committee to discuss allegations that Engilman recruited Carpenter and Daniels.
After a two-hour hearing, which included Starr but not Engilman, the committee discussed the motions for 90 minutes before ruling.
The committee determined that Engilman broke Rule 144, which states: “A coach or any other person representing the athletic program of a high school may not have personal contact with a student that does not reside in the attendance area of that school before the student is officially enrolled at that school.”
Carpenter and Daniels filed for transfers through the state-mandated open-enrollment policy and will be allowed to compete at Sylmar.
Fiege said the committee did not seek action against the students.
“I think it’s proper in terms that the committee found a means to penalize the adults responsible without jeopardizing the season for the players,” Fiege said.
Carpenter, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound sophomore, rushed for 1,214 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Daniels, a 6-2, 205-pound junior linebacker, was San Fernando’s best returning player.
It is the third sanction levied against Sylmar in less than three years. In 1993, Sylmar was placed on probation through the football season and had to forfeit two practices for an illegal team meeting on Labor Day.
Less than a year later, several Sylmar players took part in a passing-league game against players from Pierce College in August. Practicing against a team with players whose ages exceed the limit for California Interscholastic Federation eligibility is a violation.
Sylmar received two years’ probation for that summer workout.