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Fryer: Lots of questions surround Soto transfer

OCVARSITY.COM

Taking a look around Orange County high school sports:

• The transfer of basketball player Mario Soto from Mater Dei to Saddleback Valley Christian is taking an unpleasant path. Soto's lawyer, John Manly, who has much experience with cases against Mater Dei and the Diocese of Orange, has alleged that Soto was physically threatened by teammates and bullied by players and coaches at Mater Dei and that is why he is transferring.

• The CIF-Southern Section could declare Soto athletically eligible immediately at Saddleback Valley Christian if a verified change of residence is completed. CIF-SS spokesman Thom Simmons said Thursday that “The ball still is in Saddleback Valley Christian's court. They have not confirmed a valid residential change.” Saddleback Valley Christian would have to provide evidence that the Soto's original residence has been abandoned by the Soto immediate family and that the entire immediate family has moved into the new residence, and Mater Dei would have to sign off on the transfer.

• The bullying claim could be the first part of an attempt at a hardship waiver that would make a residence change unnecessary. A waiver of that sort might require documentation from Mater Dei that Soto's safety at the school was in jeopardy. Ryan Lilyengren, director of communications for the Diocese of Orange of which Mater Dei is a diocesan school, said Thursday that an internal investigation is under way.

• Manly said Soto's athletic eligibility at Saddleback Valley Christian is not the motivation for any legal action against Mater Dei or the Diocese that could ensue. “How could you go from being a co-captain of a team to being so miserable that you would want to leave at the beginning of your senior year?,” Manly said.

“This is not about playing time, it's about how toxic the environment is at Mater Dei. If you really do care about kids and character, how do you let a kid get treated this way and how do you let kids doing this to him get a pass?”

• “The Sotos are trying to move,” Saddleback Valley Christian athletic director Rod Markum said. “We're working with CIF in terms of finding out what is a hardship. This transfer is not being done so he can play basketball, because leaving the No. 3-ranked team in the nation does not make sense as an athletically motivated move.”

• Soto was named a Monarchs co-captain and is the pictured player on the team's pocket schedule. Historically, Mater Dei coach Gary McKnight, who deferred questions on the Soto matter to the Diocese, has given those honors to senior players he appreciates. Last year's pocket schedule featured Jordan Strawberry.

• Former Orange Lutheran and Canyon football coach Jim Kunau confirmed he has been interviewed for the job at Santa Margarita. Santa Margarita athletic director Richard Schaaf said the school had 30 applicants and interviews are being held this week with plans that the next coach would be announced within a week. Mission Viejo coach Bob Johnson did not confirm nor deny that his son, Rob Johnson, an assistant coach at Mission Viejo , applied and was interviewed at Santa Margarita.

• Tickets for the Corona del Mar-Sacred Heart Prep of Atherton football game Saturday at noon at StubHub Center in Carson are $15 for adult general admission and $10 general admission for senior citizens, high school students and children 13 and younger. Parking is $10 for all CIF State Championship Bowl Games at StubHub Center.

• Corona del Mar-Sacred Heart, the state Division 3 championship game, will be televised live on Time Warner Cable SportsNet and streamed live at twcsportsnet.com.

Jonathan Lockett of Mater Dei and Bobby Okereke of Foothill are on the West team that will play in the Semper Fi Bowl all-star football game Jan. 5 at StubHub Center.

• Servite coach A.J. Gass said the Friars will play at De La Salle of Concord in a nonleague game in 2014.

• La Habra football defensive end Greg Gaines withdrew his commitment to Boise State when Chris Petersen resigned as coach there to take the job at Washington. Gaines plans to sign with Washington when the letter-of-intent signing period begins Feb. 5.

• The Alta of Sandy, Utah, boys basketball team playing in the Santa Margarita Christmas Classic tournament is coached by Jim Barker, who was Empire League MVP his senior year at Kennedy in 1990.

• Sonora boys basketball coach Mike Murphy is suspended from coaching for undisclosed reasons until early next month.

• One of the top wrestling tournaments of every season, the Mann Classic, starts today and concludes Saturday at Santiago Canyon College. The county's top three ranked teams are in it: No. 1 Laguna Hills, No. 2 Servite and No. 3 Calvary Chapel.

• A memorial celebration of life for longtime wrestling official Pat Cadwallader will be held Monday at 11:30 a.m. at Faith Lutheran Church in Whittier. Cadwallader died last weekend.

Contact the writer: sfryer@ocregister.com


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