Bridgemont suspended for one year

With an enrollment hovering at just 50 students, San Francisco’s Bridgemont High School provided one of the feel-good sports stories of the year in 2007 when it defied heavy odds to capture the Central Coast Section Division V boys’ basketball championship.

Less than two years later, that championship is likely to be erased and the goodwill the school gained from its recent successes has been replaced by revelations of frequent rules infractions.

The CCS, the governing body that oversees high school athletics in some San Francisco schools and the Peninsula, has suspended Bridgemont from participating in all team sports for the 2008-09 school year, according to section commissioner Nancy Lazenby Blaser. The school must also forfeit all games in every sport from the 2007-08 school year, as well as the CCS Division V basketball trophy from the 2006-07 season.

Also, the Private Schools Athletic League has banished the Vikings from the league and barred league members from scheduling Bridgemont, according to an e-mail from a PSAL official obtained by The Examiner.

After months of investigation, CCS officials uncovered numerous violations in the Bridgemont athletic program, ranging from the use of ineligible players to inadequately prepared health forms, according to Lazenby Blaser. Bridgemont officials also repeatedly missed mandatory meetings with the CCS, Lazenby Blaser said.

“If the coaches do not carry out their due diligence, then they violate the basic trust of the CCS,” Lazenby Blaser said. “I have never seen so many violations across so many rules.”

The punishment handed to Bridgemont is unprecedented. Lazenby Blaser said that in her 21 years as CCS commissioner, no school has ever been suspended from the section for rule violations.

Thursday, Bridgemont executive director Peter Tropper said he had not received any notification from the CCS or the California Interscholastic Federation — the state’s governing body for high school sports — about any suspensions or game forfeitures.

Tropper admitted that some coaches did not thoroughly investigate eligibility requirements for a student-athlete who participated on the baseball team while also being home-schooled — a violation of CCS rules. Tropper said the coaches were unaware of the infraction at the time, but would accept blame for the mishap. Tropper also admitted that some physical examination forms weren’t filled out correctly.

Other than baseball, the school did not commit any infractions in its other sports, according to Tropper, who said Bridgemont would appeal any decision handed down by the CCS.

Lazenby Blaser said the school could appeal the suspension, but the petition would not be heard until October. The school can rejoin the CCS for the 2009-10 school year, but it would be on a provisional basis for the following two years, Lazenby Blaser said.

Approximately 70 percent of Bridgemont’s students receive financial aid. Many of the athletes are at-risk youths who come from dangerous living conditions, Tropper said.

Tropper also said he did not plan to discipline any of the coaches involved with the violations.

“Any mistakes we might have made were not with the intent of creating a sports dynamo,” Tropper said. “We’re just trying to provide these kids with an opportunity they normally wouldn’t get.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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