Five-time defending City Section Open Division football champion Harbor City Narbonne learned Friday that it has been banned from this year’s playoffs as well as the 2020 playoffs and must vacate its 2018 City title because of rules violations.
School administrators were informed at 3:22 p.m. of the sanctions but did not inform coaches until after the City Section, the governing body for sports in the Los Angeles Unified School District, released information to the media at 3:45 p.m., leaving players to find out via Twitter and angering coaches who were trying to prepare the team for a final regular-season game against visiting Wilmington Banning.
Then, at 5:15 p.m., as the junior varsity game was being played, Banning varsity players were told to stay on their bus until LAUSD officials decided if the game against Narbonne should be played.
It was supposed to be senior night for the Gauchos. District officials decided to cancel the game out of safety concerns and declare it a no contest, Narbonne interim coach Joe Aguirre said. Players began hugging each other in the weight room, returning equipment and saying goodbye.
My son's a Senior.. Not having Senior Night effects him the rest of his life. I didn't get to share that moment with him and Watching him play his last game as a Senior! It's sad.. It was tough seeing the pain and tears from these kids.. Sad Deal— D-BO (@TonganPollock) November 2, 2019
Narbonne went from 9-0 to 0-9 because the City Section determined that multiple players on this year’s team were ineligible. They involved residency violations. There was a dispute late Friday between the administration and coaching staff about which players were ineligible. Coaches wanted to prevent those who were ineligible from playing against Banning but administrators refused to identify the players to the coaching staff.
LAUSD announced on Oct. 8 that Narbonne had used an ineligible player last year. The City Section ruled Narbonne will have to forfeit seven games from the 2018 season and vacate its Open Division title. The program was put on probation through the 2022-23 school year.
The Gauchos were considered heavy favorites to win another Open Division title. A recruiter from Alabama was at the coaches’ office Friday afternoon as players glanced at their smart phones seeking information while music blared in the weight room.
The sanctions were handed down on the eve of the City Section playoff seeding meeting. Narbonne’s absence creates a wide-open, eight-team Open Division with all of the teams capable of winning the title.
The seriousness of the investigation first became apparent when longtime coach Manuel Douglas announced he had been temporarily reassigned on May 31. He said the district alleged he interfered with an investigation. Douglas filed a lawsuit against the LAUSD in September.
There’s expected to be an exodus of Narbonne underclassmen, and supporters of schools around the Southland have already made inquiries, according to one Narbonne coach.