A Los Angeles Unified School District investigation into an allegation of academic misconduct involving a Harbor City Narbonne football player confirmed that a player on last year’s team was ineligible after Oct. 4 because he did not have a grade-point average above 2.0, according to Michael Romero, superintendent for Local District South.
Narbonne reported to the City Section on Tuesday that there was a violation of LAUSD academic policy involving the player last season. Now it will be up to City Section Commissioner Vicky Lagos to apply CIF rules and determine whether any sanctions are warranted against this year’s team, such as a playoff ban.
Lagos said she will be “reviewing and processing” and consulting with CIF legal staff. One of the first priorities would be to see whether the player was in a game after Oct. 4. The City Section has banned teams from the playoffs in the past when ineligible players were discovered the previous year.
Narbonne is the five-time defending City Section Open Division champion and heavily favored to win a sixth time. The Gauchos are 6-1 overall and won their Marine League opener last week against San Pedro 53-0. But the fact the Gauchos used an ineligible player places them in serious jeopardy of sanctions by the City Section.
Romero said in March of this year that a teacher reported to the administration his concern regarding the grades of a football player. “We did determine he was ineligible to participate after Oct. 4,” Romero said.
The teacher reported that the player’s grades in the computer system did not reflect his true grades, according to Peter Hastings, administrator for operations in Local District South.
“We uncovered documents that there were irregularities,” Romero said. “His eligibility was compromised due to failure to meeting the 2.0 grade-point average.”
The LAUSD confirmed in May that it was investigating an allegation of academic misconduct at Narbonne. Two staff members were reassigned, and the entire football team was brought into the school library to be interviewed. Football coach Manuel Douglas was reassigned at the end of May for an allegation of “misconduct involving interference with an on-going District investigation,” according to a lawsuit Douglas filed last month against LAUSD.
While the investigation into academic misconduct was completed by the local district office, the inspector general’s office of the LAUSD has since launched an ongoing investigation that led to Douglas’ lawsuit.
Douglas’ frustration grew to a breaking point in August when he flew on a private charter jet paid for by a Narbonne booster to see the team play in Clovis in its season opener and put on his Twitter avatar, “Head coach of team outcast.” He is not expected to return to coach this season. He continues to be paid while assigned to his home.
A letter was sent to Narbonne parents Tuesday from principal Sara Aiello that said:
“Today Narbonne High School submitted a letter to the CIF reporting the findings of its investigation of academic misconduct. At this time, we cannot provide further information due to student privacy issues, but our investigation has determined that a student athlete was made eligible to play football as a result of academic placement that failed to comply with LAUSD policy. LAUSD is in the process of taking corrective action as a result of these findings. CIF will make a determination based on the details of this report.”
Aiello also sent a letter to Lagos:
“The Los Angeles Unified School District has concluded its investigation of academic misconduct for Narbonne High School. The investigation has determined that a … football player was made eligible to play as a result of academic placement that failed to comply with LAUSD policy. The modifications to the student’s schedule resulted in an inaccurate recording of his academic marks, making him eligible to play when, in fact, he was not. [He] should have been deemed ineligible as of October 4, 2018.”
Whatever happens this season, the Gauchos’ reign could be nearing an end because the coaching staff put together by Douglas is unlikely to stick around when the season ends. The rest of the coaching staff has stayed together under interim coach Joe Aguirre and successfully kept the players focused on the field.