SANTA ANA An Orange County Superior Court Judge late Wednesday morning denied Corona del Mar water polo player Martin Babovic's appeal for varsity eligibility.
Babovic, a foreign exchange student from Serbia, has been cleared by the Southern Section to play junior varsity but was seeking to play varsity.
As it was late in Tuesday's session, the definition of enrollment loomed large in the decision by Judge Steven L. Perk.
The Southern Section and state CIF argued that enrollment starts when a student begins to attend class.
Babovic's attorney, Richard Bridgford, argued that enrollment started when Babovic's registration process was completed at Corona del Mar in March and his spot at the school was secured. The senior arrived in the United States in August and began taking classes in September.
In the end, Perk sided with the Southern Section and state CIF's definition, meaning that Babovic had inappropriate contact before enrolling.
"They (CIF) won a technicality based on an interpretation of enrollment," said Bridgford, also the father of Mission Viejo quarterback Allan Bridgford.
Perk emphasized that Corona del Mar administrators should have known the eligibility rules better.
Babovic played for Corona del Mar in a tournament in Hungary in July. James Watson, the father of the family hosting Babovic, said Corona del Mar's administration approved the participation.
But Perk also said that he believed Babovic was not recruited by the school and was a random placement. Watson took victory in that part of Perk's findings.
Watson said he was "thrilled" his family's name was cleared. But there was disappointment, too. He said he was disappointed that a "tragic comedy of errors" prevented Babovic from playing "varsity ball."
State CIF attorney Diane Marshall-Freeman was pleased with the ruling. "We're just pleased the judge upheld the rules of the CIF," she said.
Bridgford said he has not decided whether to appeal.