Diocese of Orange files suit against Southern Section

October 04th, 2010, 2:44 pm ·

· posted by DAN ALBANO,

(Update 10/5/10) : CIF-SS responds to the lawsuit)

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has filed a lawsuit, on behalf of Mater Dei, against the CIF-Southern Section alleging that the section's application of rules and regulations have been biased against Mater Dei.

"(The) CIF-SS has consistently, intentionally and systematically engaged in arbitrary and discriminatory actions against Mater Dei by issuing and enforcing unsupported and erroneous findings and ruling related to eligibility of student athletes at Mater Dei," the suit claims.

The complaint, filed Sept. 29 in Orange County Superior Court, is related to rulings that football player Todd Hunt and water polo player Jon Walters are athletically ineligible. Both student-athletes are transfers. Walters, a former standout at Newport Harbor, was denied eligibility this season because his move was deemed to be athletically motivation, according to a state CIF appeal panel.

According to a statement issued by Diocese of Orange spokesman Ryan Lilyengren, “This complaint stems from the biased application of CIF rules and regulations pertaining to Mater Dei's sports programs. These regulations have been applied or enforced differently at other CIF member schools, constituting an unfair and bias(sic) application of the CIF-SS charter or Blue Book.” And, “This legal action does not seek any award of monetary damages, but a resolution that will bring an end to the unfair and unjust treatment of Mater Dei and its student-athletes.”

CIF-SS spokesman Thom Simmons said, via e-mail, “We cannot comment due to pending litigation.”

Mater Dei referred questions regarding the complaint to the Diocese.

The suits seeks an order from the court that directs the CIF-SS to "Refrain from issuing or enforcing unsupported and erroneous findings and rulings related to the eligibility of student athletes at Mater Dei."

The suit does seeks attorney fees and costs "incurred and expended by Mater Dei." The suit's cover sheet lists the amount demanded to be above $25,000.

While the Walters case appears to have ended, the Hunt case remains ongoing. He is a seeking a temporary restraining order against the Southern Section to play varsity football.

Hunt, from Connecticut, filed a hardship with the CIF-SS but it was denied. According to court documents, Hunt left Connecticut to escape gang violence. Hunt's 17-year-old brother was stabbed to death in January of 2008, according to court documents.

"... even though Todd himself has never been involved in gang activity ... Todd could be the focus of retaliation in Fairfield County ... if he continued to live there," the suit states.

Hunt lives with a Mater Dei student and the student's mother in Newport Beach.

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