Coronado Unified’s appeal of CIF tortilla incident sanctions fails — in part

A sign reads "We love you Islanders!" at the Coronado High School campus
Coronado is still dealing with the fallout from the tortilla incident in June, in which two Coronado High School students threw tortillas at a mostly-Latino basketball team.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A California Interscholastic Federation appeal panel will not return a regional basketball championship title to Coronado High School that was revoked following the school’s infamous June tortilla incident, the Coronado Unified School District announced Tuesday.

But the three-member panel relaxed other sanctions that CIF had issued against Coronado High for the tortilla incident. The panel reined in sanctions that would have applied to all Coronado High School athletic teams and instead said that only the boys basketball program would have to follow them.

“This is not the result we were hoping for,” Coronado Superintendent Karl Mueller said in a statement Tuesday. “Our boys earned the title, against a great team, on the court in a highly-contested and fair athletic contest. However, we are pleased that the rest of our CHS men’s and women’s athletic teams are no longer part of the sanctions.”


The panel’s decision is the latest fallout from the June incident, in which two Coronado High School basketball players threw tortillas at the mostly Latino Orange Glen High School team from Escondido, in the aftermath of a regional basketball championship game.

Some people inside and outside of Coronado condemned the act as racially insensitive, regardless of the intent of the throwers.

Other Coronado community members said there was no racial intent behind the tortilla-throwing and that Coronado High School was being unfairly punished. Some, including Mayor Richard Bailey and School Board Trustee Stacy Keszei, also have criticized some school board members for saying the incident was fueled by racism.

Bailey, who is running for Congress, criticized the panel’s decision on Facebook.

“This decision by CIF is entirely indefensible as it sets the precedent that all future wins in any sport by any team will be vacated if someone, even if they are unaffiliated with the school or team, does something someone finds politically incorrect,” he wrote.

Bailey added, “The governing bodies responsible for due process care more about advancing their own political narrative than the truth. Shame on them.”


Conflicts about the tortilla incident have plagued the Coronado school board’s meetings for the past several months.

The school district appealed the CIF’s sanctions in July because school officials said the tortilla incident was primarily the fault of adults, not students.

A Coronado High School alumnus, Luke Serna, brought the tortillas to the game. Also, adults at the game from Coronado and Escondido, including coaches, allegedly contributed to the verbal conflicts that preceded the students throwing the tortillas, according to both school districts’ investigations of the incident.

Mueller told the CIF in June that the school district conducted its own investigation and found no “evidence of antagonization by the players’ actions or behaviors that justify forfeiting the game.”

Originally, the CIF placed the entire Coronado High School athletics program on probation until the 2023-2024 school year. According to Coronado Unified, the appeal panel modified that sanction to include probation only for the boys basketball program.

CIF had also required that all Coronado High School student-athletes, coaches, administrators and athletic directors complete a sportsmanship workshop, including cultural sensitivity training. The panel narrowed that sanction to apply only to the boys basketball program, according to the school district.


The panel still requires that all Coronado High administrators and athletic directors take game management training.

The boys basketball team will be able to redeem their chance to host postseason contests in the 2022-2023 season if the sportsmanship workshop and game management training are completed, the district said.

The original CIF decision prohibited all Coronado High School athletic teams from hosting postseason contests — not just the basketball team — until all student athletes had completed the sportsmanship workshops and the game management training was done. Now all the teams can host postseason games, except the boys basketball team, according to the school district.