Swimming: St. Ignatius faces sanctions due to athletic department oversight

By Jeremy Balan

Due to an oversight by the St. Ignatius athletic department, the school’s swim team was forced to forfeit two wins, and two of its best swimmers were deemed ineligible for the rest of the season and were not allowed to compete in the West Catholic Athletic League trials and finals this weekend at Serra High School in San Mateo.

One swimmer from the boys team and another from the girls team competed in the National Club Swimming Association Junior Nationals in Orlando, Fla. in late March, but that alone was not what caused the infraction.

According to St. Ignatius athletic director John Mulkerrins, because the swimmers had not yet competed for the Wildcats, if they would have only participated in individual events, St. Ignatius would have been in compliance of Article 6, Section 11 of the Central Coast Section bylaws, which states that “A student may not join a school Varsity [sic] team after the first contest of that team[,] if the student has competed on an outside team or outside competition in the same sport during the school/league season of that sport. . .”

But when the swimmers competed in relays at the NCSA Junior Nationals, they technically became a part of their club team, North Bay Aquatics. Once they gained that distinction, they became ineligible, according to the CCS bylaws, to compete for St. Ignatius. The two swimmers competed in the two following St. Ignatius meets, against Lowell and Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the CCS ruled both to be forfeits after St. Ignatius self-reported the infraction.

The fault of the infraction falls on the St. Ignatius athletic department and coaches, because the school’s athletic syllabus and coaches told the swimmers they were allowed to compete in the NCSA meet, including the relays, while retaining high school eligibility.

“It’s unfortunate for the two student athletes involved in this case,” Mulkerrins said in an interview on Friday. “They are not allowed to compete for their high school because of an oversight in rules. We do understand that it is our responsibility to know the rules of our section and understand that the penalty is written that way to preserve the high school experience, which we believe in.”

In a letter to families of swimming and diving team members dated April 23 and obtained by SanFranPreps.com, Mulkerrins apologized for the mistake and also stated that the athletic department intends to discuss adding rule clarifications to the CCS bylaws with the section, as well as working toward getting the NCSA Junior Nationals to be an exempted meet.

“I also want to make sure you know the student athletes did nothing wrong – they were operating under the assumption it was allowable . . . My apologies to our two student athletes, their families and the rest of the team members for this inconvenience during the season,” Mulkerrins wrote in the letter.

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  1. Don L. says:

    WOW. I’m a little shocked that this happened and feel bad for the two swimmers. From the sounds of it, the SI administrators have never come up against this situation before as it was written in the SI rules incorrectly anyway.

    This is really an odd situation and unfortunately, the student athletes lose out once again. Wasn’t it Lincoln and another school that had trouble with transfer eligibility during the fall?

    I don’t really know the rules for high school athletes participating in club teams. But I’ve heard that athletes can’t compete on club teams DURING the season. While the AAU basketball tournaments are usually going year round, the Asian leagues / tournaments that go on up & down California RUN after the high school basketball seasons have ended in March.

  2. @SA says:

    It’s unfortunate for these student athletes and a good reminder for parents and students to confirm all the eligibility rules from CIF / CCS before participating.

    Regarding the transfer rule, the CIF’s Federated Council voted 114 to 21 Friday in favor of a new transfer policy that will allow student athletes who move from one school to another to become eligible without a change of residency after sitting out the first 30 to 35 days of the season. Under the old rule, students who transferred without moving were ineligible for one year unless they received a hardship waiver. Under the new rule, fall sports athletes will be eligible on Oct. 1, winter sports on Dec. 31 and spring sports on April 1. It becomes effective July 1.

  3. SI VB says:

    My daughter swims on the SI team. This was very upsetting to the entire team. Swimming is the only high school sport that allows athletes to compete at club meets during the high school season. These high school swimmers who compete at club meets swim “unattached”, which means they are not officially part of their club team. The two swimmers in question here swam in relay events, which required then to “attach” to their club team. That was the rule violation.

    • scasee says:

      Swimming is not the only high school sport that allows players to play both club and high school, I know many soccer players that play both.

      • SI VB says:

        That is true but different high schools have soccer in different seasons. Some play soccer in fall, some in winter, some in spring.

        • scasee says:

          just wondering, how does that affect the issue of playing both?

          • SI VB says:

            High schools have very strict rules about playing for 2 teams at once. During high school season, athletes are not allowed to participate on another team. The two exceptions are soccer and swimming. However, since there is no universal high school soccer season (as I said, some play in fall, etc) there are no rules about playing club while the high school season is on. There is no defined high school season so there is no defined club season. With swimming, every club swimmer competes during the spring for the high school season. That has caused the CCS to make some rules about swimming at club meets, because there are several high level meets (including the Junior Olympics and Far Westerns, as well as the meet these two swimmers attended) that take place in the spring. So there are some complicated rules for swimming, but none for soccer.

  4. Ela919 says:

    My son swims for SI and this was such a blow to the team. What a huge oversight on the part of SI. I don’t think the rule violation was with relays tho. As I understand it there are a few high level meets exempt from the rules that prohibit competing for two teams such as Nationals and Sectionals where the swimmer can compete attached to their club team. In these situations they swim for their club team until that meet is over and then they compete for their high school team, usually missing the first couple of meets of the high school season so that they are not competing for two teams at the same time. (As the previous poster noted, if a club swimmer wants to swim other meets not covered by the special exemption they swim unattached.) The school thought this Junior National meet qualified for the special exemption not understanding that CCS has more stringent rules than other leagues. They didn’t carefully check the rules to protect the eligibility of their two best swimmers, but instead they gave express permission to swim attached which was incorrect. I feel bad for the whole team which has suffered and especially for the two swimmers who have been hurt by the SI’s Athletic Departments mistake.

  5. John Doe says:

    Another example of the incompetence of the Athletic Department…the tradition continues. Maybe it’s time to look around the WCAL and compare SI.

    • JJ says:

      It’s probably no coincidence that the 2 WCAL schools with basically brand new AD’s dropped the ball twice this season.

    • sfpatriot says:

      Wow – I feel bad for the athletes, their teammates and families. I understand these things sometimes happen, but it’s usually when the AD’s or coaches don’t know about an athlete’s rule-breaking participation until after an event has happened. The AD’s should thoroughly know all the rules.

      What really strikes me is the AD’s apology “for this inconvenience during the season”. INCONVENIECE??? It seems much, much worse than a simple “inconvience”.
      Sounds to me like the AD department has a real nonchalent and somewhat cavalier attitude towards its student athletes and the athletic department’s responsibilites!

  6. Irishman says:

    I spoke with SI’s coaches at the WCAL meet. Their view is that their mistake was that the NCS and CCS have different rules and they went by the NCS rule by accident. Apparently the NCS allows kids to swim for their high schools once they are done swimming attached for their club teams. So SI had the two kids sit out their early meets and they didn’t compete for the ‘Cats until after Junior Nationals. CCS’ rule says once you swim attached for a club during the CIF season, you’re ineligible.

    Simple mistake, but inexcusable. This is not a new rule and even if the NCS does have it different, it’s not like SI is or has ever been in the NCS. All of the coaches (including the club coaches) should have known better and it’s too bad that these two kids (and their SI teammates) suffer for it.

  7. Differerent Opinion says:

    I have a different opinion on this, but then again my kids didn’t go to SI. SI and some other schools let their kids do most or all of their practices with their club team and then show up for the high school meet. I think this is bad philosophy. Why should you take a precious spot on the varsity team if you don’t practice with the team? How about the kids who show up at high school practice every day, but get bumped down to JV or cut because some stud “flies in” for the meet? Reminds me of Forrest Whittaker in “Fast Times at Ridgmont High”. “Wow, he actually goes to school here? I thought he just flew in for the games.”

    I believe SI’s policy last year was to require club swimmers to swim high school practice, so the North Bay Aquatics kids didn’t swim for them last year, and SI didn’t do well in WCAL. So they backed down this year. I think they also had the same short-lived policy a few years before that, but again backed down when their best club swimmers boycotted the team.

    It’s also a question of the swimmer’s priorities. In this case it seemed that the swimmers put a higher priority on swimming a relay for the club team. They could have just swum the individual events as unattached swimmers and been fine.

    It will also be interesting to see if SI still considers the male swimmer’s times in the forfeited meets to be team records, given his swimming is what caused them to have to forfeit two sure-win meets.

    When in doubt, swim “unattached”. Every high school swimmer knows that.

    • David Cline says:

      My name is David Cline I am Bradley Cline’s father, just for the record no need for anonymity. I can understand your opinion and as this bulletin board allows, we may all table our perspective. First I would address some of the statements you make which are inaccurate. On the rare occassion that SI allowed swimmers who aspired to reach for a competitive enviornment beyond High School swimming, where they committed themselves to the sport 12 months a year, their participation never caused any swimmer to lose a spot on the team. This is a no cut sport. No swimmer on the varsity team was ever bumped down to the JV squad because of a year round swimmers participation on the SI High School Swim team. Your less than respectful slur of these student athletes in your reference to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is petie and offensive. At no time have these kids shown anything other than respect for their team, teammates and their school. Even when they were banned from participating with their team they went to the meet to cheer their teammates on. They continue to display character, honor and respect. This is something your comment does not.

      Your comment which states “a few years ago swimmers boycotted the team” is incorrect. All of those swimmers were presented with the requirements of mandatory high school practices and made a difficult decision not to represent their school. this was not out of disdain, rather very dissappointing. The reason is simple. High School swimming does a good job in encouraging and developing the student athlete who chooses to engage in swimming as a competitive sport for a single season. This same program is not able to contribute to a swimmer who commits himself to practices 6 days a week many days with double practices and a dry land strength program to contribute to their development. The decision was made not to participate beacuse, to commit the time to come to these practices actually diminished the swimmers ability to perform at the top level. Their decision was not that they did not want to participate, rather they could not allow themselves to practice at a level that would not allow them to be the best they could possibly be.

      Your suggestion that “it seems that the swimmers put a higher priority on swimming a relay for the club team” is complete crap. For you to make such a statement is reckless. YOU DON’T KNOW. They could have cared less about wheteher they swam for North Bay Aquatics or Unattached. They cared that they were competing at one of the top competitions in this country.

      Regarding your question of records….. My son, nor I could care less what you do with the records. He does not need his name on a board to know what he achieved. The fact that these two swimmers went to the SI coaches and AD in January, declared their intention to compete in the Junior National meet. This was reviewed and they were directed as to how to manage this by SI is a mistake yes. If this allows you the opportunity for the school to abandon them once again by pulling records from the board for following their directions. Then knock yourself out. These kids, ALL OF THEM are under our tutelage. What are we teaching them here? They did not commit this infraction recklessly, with intent or disregard, rather at the schools direction. So, can I assume you are OK with teaching them that they can be assigned the punishment for others mistakes and once that happens we will turn our back to you because you have brought sanctions and shame to our school?????

      “when in doubt, swim “unattached, every High School Swimmer knows that”. The AD gets paid along with the coach to know how to manage their team within the league they compete in. It is not the Club Coaches responsibility to manage High School Swimming, rather the other way around. You are certainly intent on assigning this responsibility to these kids.

      If you would wish to discuss this in any forum I would make myself available. Otherwise we are relegated to anonymity by your choice.

    • ARHS Stats says:

      I think St. Ignatius will leave Bradley Cline’s records posted as either team records or pool records whichever records were broken in those two meets.

      This is like an administrative forfeit, since the swimmers did not know any better than what their coaches had told them. I don’t think there is any reason to penalize the swimmers.

      Bradley did not break any rules while swimming those races, he won them fair and square.

  8. Differerent Opinion says:

    Mr. Cline – I apologize if I struck a nerve. But I think you made my point for me. The most important thing to your son is swimming at the highest levels, and that requires practicing with his club team full-time year-round, even during high school season. That’s fine. That’s a choice you and he made, and I don’t expect it affects his attractiveness to colleges, because they can still see his club team times. I respect that decision.

    But then why swim for his high school team? If the practices aren’t good enough, why have any association with the team? It is, after all, called a “team”. How much a part of the team can you be if you’re not part of the hard work that goes into the daily team practices and the bonding that comes out of it? I swam in high school for four years, and I can tell you I and my teammates would have been pissed if someone came to meets who never came to the practices we did, because the practices weren’t good enough for them.

    I know the swimmers involved are paying a price, but so are the coaches and AD, who publicly took responsibility for these events, and who also have been criticized on this site. I hate to think what’s being said about them in the halls and among parents. But it shouldn’t be the end of the world for anyone involved, either swimmers or coaches and AD. I wrote my first post because of the post from John Doe (a very uncommon name, don’t you think?), “Another example of the incompetence of the Athletic Department…the tradition continues. Maybe it’s time to look around the WCAL and compare SI.”

    As for my choice of anonymity, your ad hominem attacks confirmed to me that I made the right decision about that.

    • David Cline says:

      No nerve struck, just statements of fact. Hoever don’t expect to attack my son and not have me respond passionately. With regards to your choice of anonymity and your attempt to decalre my response as “ad hominem” If you can’t own what you say then you shouldn’t say it. The fact that you felt complelled to bring in “your high school experience” is sad to me. This is their experience, their expectations and shared realities. The kids don’t need your high school athletic experience contributed to this in any measure. Once again I have to correct you, as you seem very comfortable in slinging supposition as fact. The swimmers who swim for club teams do attend a number of practices. Yes it is correct not all. Your statement
      “you would be pissed if someone came to meets who never came to the practices” is again a suggestion that these kids don’t share any of the practices. You are incorrect.

      The swimmers are paying the price, you are certainly correct there. Are you indicating that there should be greater empathy for the coaches and AD???? Its their job! The word is accountability. Sometimes it sucks, man up, learn, move forward, get better, change what you need to change but to suggest that these kids are responsible for them being a lightening rod to this is ridiculous.

      In regards to your comment “why swim for high school”? This is their school, their peers, their community they want to be a part. So if your camp of thought can influence the school and how they manage this, ban them all from participating, if they choose to take another more embracing approach. Then difine it, manage it and enjoy what each aspect and each swimmer can and will bring to the experience. When CCS rules that ALL Schools in the league ban club swimmers completely no problem. Until then every other school has a more relaxed environment regarding this very issue than SI. I don’t fault SI in any way for their structure. I do vehemently disagree with the direction you have taken the discussion of this incidence. The issue is CCS and CIF as it pertains to all the schools, all the swimmers and their responsibility to administer their rulings in a consistent, fair, even handed manner with synergy and clarity.

      Still available at your convenience.

      • Different Opinion says:

        Mr. Cline – I didn’t attack your child. I stated my opinion, and one shared by other parents I know, about the practice of schools such as SI to allow club swimmers to do most of their workouts with their club teams rather than their high school teams. I made very clear that I am philosophically opposed to that. SI obviously has been ambivalent on this issue over the past 4-5 years, reversing their policy on this several times. So I don’t think I’m all by myself on this limb you’re trying to chase me on to.

        I’m not proposing banning club swimmers – don’t put words in my mouth. But I believe they should practice with their high school teams during those three months, and they should swim club meets unattached. Again, that seems to be commonly accepted standard practice. Bad information was given, mistakes were made.

        I don’t have any more empathy for the AD and coaches than I do for the swimmers. They all are accountable. Some of the comments on this thread have singled out the AD and coaches and suggested gross incompetence and removing the new AD. I’ve tried to balance that with a “different opinion”. You want me to respect your strong disagreement with me. Then respect mine of yours.

        And please don’t condescend with your “is sad to me”. Am I not allowed to use my own experience to form an opinion? Should I just take it from the experts like you, the parent of a high-level swimmer, that your opinion and his experience are more valuable than mine and my children’s?

        “This is their school, their peers, their community they want to be a part.” But evidently not last year, when the rules were different and your son and other NBA swimmers would have had to actually practice full-time with the SI team for three months. That’s too great a sacrifice evidently.

        I’ll let you have the final word now.

        • ARHS Stats says:

          I took your first statement as an attack on the swimmers who swam with North Bay Aquatics.

          You said they should have known to swim unattached.

          The person or persons who should have known the C.C.S. swimming rules were the North Bay Aquatics Club Coaches, so that none of their swimmer affected their High School teams.

          And if the Club Coaches can’t take the time to read the rules that will affect their Clubs swimmers, they should not be coaching.

          • Different Opinion says:

            ARHS Stats – Interesting. I didn’t mean and I don’t think I did attack the swimmers involved in my first post, except my last statement, which was “When in doubt, swim ‘unattached’. Every high school swimmer knows that.”.

            What I was “attacking”, or at least disagreeing with, is the practice of high-level high school swimmers doing most of their practices with their club teams during the high school season, because their high school team practices aren’t challenging enough to keep them at their club team levels. And I was criticizing high school teams that allow such swimmers to swim for their teams when they may not swim a majority of the practices with their high school coaches.

            Yes, the NBA coaches should have known to tell their swimmers to swim unattached. But I think high school swimmers should just swim unattached from Feb. 15 to May 15 to be safe. Arguably not their fault in this case, as the NBA and SI coaches told them they were OK. But the rules are the rules.

            • ARHS Stats says:

              When students are told something by the adult coaches in their lives and that information is wrong, no blame should be assigned to the student.

              The SI AD and coaches have stepped up and said it was their fault.

              I have yet to see any of the North Bay Aquatics coaches stepping up and accepting the blame.

        • David cline says:

          If I knew who’s mouth I was trying to put words into I would be more inclined to hold your opinion in higher regard. It is my intention to contribute to protecting the children, mine, yours all of them. Anything less than this is a misguided effort. There is enough accountability to go around, the real question is who will be accountable for defining the direction of this school, this league as we go forward.

  9. JF says:

    The issue of swimming high school or not when you are a club swimmer is tricky, and perspective means everything. Should a club swimmer be excluded from high school swimming because the team can’t offer the training, coaching or facilities required to maintain and build their fitness? Should a swimmer sacrifice their goals and forego a third of their swim year just to participate in a high school practice? Frankly, most high school swim coaches are thankful that club swimmers swim most of the week (but not all the week) on their club team. This opens up some lanes and allows coaches to instruct other swimmers as they develop into the sport. Seems to me, high school is a time for students to be involved and included as much as possible…find a way for it to work and stop trying to find the reason it can’t. And in this case, knowing club and high school as well as I do…North Bay should have known better, and should have protected these swimmers. They have coached CCS kids before, they know the rules…what were they thinking?!

    • ARHS Stats says:

      I agree with this.

      Club Coaches know which schools their swimmers swim for.

      From March to May they should know the rules so that their club swimmer’s will be eligible for their high school swim teams.

      And the Club Coaches should make sure all their Club Swimmers maintain their eligibility for their High School during these months.

      Since it seems to me, that the North Bay Aquatics Club Coaches don’t do this, I would not let any High School swimmer swim for them.

  10. Club Swimmer says:

    Dear Mr. Cline,

    I am curious if your son’s Northbay Aquatics coaches were aware of the CCS rules about competing for a club team during the high school swim season and more importantly, when CCS considers a swimmer a member of his high school team. Did they know they were risking your son’s high school eligibility by having him swim attached to Northbay at the Orlando Juniors? From what I gather, many Northbay swimmers have attended SI over the years so I find it disturbing that the coaches would not familiarize themselves with the rules. We swimmers trust our coaches to do the right thing. My coach, even though he does not have any swimmers in CCS, is aware the CCS rules.

    I feel for your son. But if I were you, I would ask why the club coaches weren’t looking out for him. There was information on the home page of CCS relating to the NCSA Junior Nationals which made me look even deeper into the rules. A few phone calls by your son’s coaches might have saved the season for him.

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