Bishop Diego to appeal CIF sanction

Bishop Diego has decided to pursue an appeal of the sanction the CIF-Southern Section imposed on the school’s football program for an alleged violation of the undue influence rule.

Dr. Paul Harrington, head of school at Bishop Diego, said in an email to Presidio Sports late Wednesday that the school has “retained the services of a Los Angeles-based law firm and will file an appeal of the sanction to the CIF-SS Commissioner of Athletics within the next week.”

The school’s decision to file an appeal comes two days before the Cardinals football team plays its CIF-SS Northwest Division playoff opener against South Torrance.

“Quite simply, it is unrealistic to complete the appeal process by this Friday,” Harrington said.

Bishop Diego (10-0), the top-seeded team in the division and the Tri-Valley League champion, would be hosting the game on Friday, but the CIF-SS ordered the team to play all of its playoff games on the road after it determined from the findings of an investigation that the school violated the rule.

The alleged violation of the undue influence rule stems over a flier promoting an admissions event at Bishop Diego, inviting 8th graders from throughout Santa Barbara to attend Spirit Day activities as well as the Homecoming football game in early October. The flier was published in the Santa Barbara News-Press and online.

“I want to reiterate that this invitation was for an Admissions event that in no way targeted student athletes,” Harrington wrote in a letter that was posted on the Bishop Diego web site.

A team mom of a Santa Barbara Youth Football League team obtained the flier and made it available to the team.

Harrington said in his letter that the team mom didn’t have a student attending Bishop Diego and had no affiliation or connection with the school.

The CIF-SS was notified of the flier being made available to the youth football team and asked Bishop Diego to conduct an investigation. After the school reported its findings, the CIF determined Bishop Diego was in violation of the undue influence rule.

In his letter to the Bishop Diego family, Harrington said, “I disagree with the manner in which this accusation was presented, handled, and sanctioned and share your disappointment that (the football team) will not have the benefit of playing in front of a home crowd during the C.I.F. campaign …”

Harrington said the support from the Bishop community during the controversy “has been amazing.”

He added: “Faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and I couldn’t be more proud of our boys and our coaching staff. They have remained focused, practiced and played very hard, and set a school record at 10-0. Although we have lost the privilege to host a home playoff contest, the Cardinal spirit remains alive and well, and we continue to support our great program.”

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