In a letter e-mailed to parents Friday, Santa Margarita's principal addressed the controversy surrounding the school's football program and endorsed Coach Harry Welch.
Santa Margarita principal Ray Dunne told parents the school thought it was abiding by CIF rules in hosting a community event March 31 at its new athletic center. The event was designed to introduce the facility to the community, Dunne stated.
“In fact, the school (Santa Margarita) had made a call to the CIF-SS office to talk about the event,” Dunne wrote.
On April 1, the CIF-SS followed a lead and questioned the school about the event. The CIF later determined that Santa Margarita had violated undue influence rules.
Dunne said Santa Margarita addressed the violation internally, avoiding the penalty of being declared ineligible for the 2010 postseason.
“We developed our internal response and submitted that response to CIF who accepted the response and subsequently the investigation was closed,” Dunne wrote.
Santa Margarita and the CIF Southern Section have declined to discuss the penalty.
Dunne gave Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch a strong endorsement. “I have the utmost confidence in the leadership characteristics of Coach Welch,” Dunne wrote.
Here is the letter from Dunne. It has not been edited by OCVarsity.com:
During my time as principal of SMCHS it has been a goal of mine to keep you informed and updated about campus events. It is in that spirit that I send you this email today.
Many of you have noted that over the past few weeks there has been a lot written in the newspapers and on websites about SMCHS with regard to our football program and the CIF. Unfortunately much of what was written was simple conjecture and had no basis in fact. I would like to give you the facts so that you have a complete and balanced picture.
On 31 March an event was held in our new Eagle Athletic Center which was designed to introduce the facility to the community. The evening was planned with the best intentions and all involved thought that they were conforming to CIF rules and regulations regarding undue influence of potential student-athletes. In fact the school had made a call to the CIF-SS office to talk about the event.
The following morning, 1 April, our Athletic Director received a call from the CIF-SS office with some questions about what had taken place the prior evening. The call was based on information submitted to their office by someone who had been in attendance at the event. Later that afternoon our A.D., Rich Schaaf, President Paul Carey and I spoke with the CIF office and answered their many questions.
When we returned from the Easter Break I received another call from CIF indicating that they had finished their inquiry and that they determined that the event was not in keeping with their regulations and that the event had been a case of undue influence. At that point the CIF works with the member school to rectify the situation with the suggestion of an internal response. For us to do otherwise would have deprived our team of any possibility of playing in the 2010 CIF playoffs. We developed our internal response and submitted that response to CIF who accepted the response and subsequently the investigation was closed. All of this was done in what I feel was a very professional manner and I am pleased that we have brought the matter to a successful conclusion.
As principal, the overriding issue was that the young men of Eagle football be given a chance to go to the playoffs as a result of their play on the field. I have always firmly believed that a school must be 'student-centered' and as a principal it is my task to try to make sure our actions model that belief. The CIF acceptance of the internal sanctions accomplished this goal.
Let me share a few thoughts about our Head Coach, Mr. Harry Welch. In January of this year after a search which resulted in 43 applicants for the position of varsity football coach, Harry Welch was chosen by our selection panel as the new SM coach. We were very excited and pleased when Mr. Welch accepted the position and remain excited for the coming season. In his typical 'down to work' attitude he was on the job right away, meeting the team, hiring a fine staff of coaches and preparing for the coming season. He is giving his heart and soul to Eagle football. His desire and goal is to help our players have pride in themselves, their program and school and in so doing, guiding the program to success. I have the utmost confidence in the leadership characteristics of Coach Welch. The future of Eagle football is bright under his very capable direction and I hope you all will witness that bright future during the upcoming 2010 season.
In closing, I am reminded that at times in each of our lives we are challenged by difficult events. It is during those times that we do well to remember, especially during this Easter Season, that if we but ask, our Lord will be there for us, giving us strength, direction and His love...Caritas Christi!
Thank you for taking the time to read this message and for your continuing support of SMCHS!