Football: Mater Dei sues CIF Southern Section
Call it the rebellion of the Catholic schools.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, acting on behalf of Santa Ana Mater Dei, has filed a civil suit in Santa Ana Superior Court alleging that the CIF Southern Section has "applied rules relating to the eligibility of student athletes at Mater Dei unfairly and inconsistently," according to diocese spokesman Ryan Lilyengren.
The suit, filed on Sept. 29, states that the Southern Section "has consistently, intentionally and systematically engaged in arbitrary and discriminatory actions against Mater Dei by issuing and enforcing unsupported and erroneous findings and rulings relating to eligibility of student athletes at Mater Dei."
This school year, the Southern Section has declared a top water polo player who transferred to Mater Dei from Newport Harbor ineligible and declared a linebacker who transferred from Connecticut ineligible. The linebacker, Todd Hunt, has an appeal hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
Attorneys representing Mater Dei and the diocese are seeking a court order that directs the Southern Section to abide by and enforce all provisions of its Blue Book while also seeking attorneys' fees and costs.
This is the second time this year that the diocese has filed suit against the Southern Section. During the summer, the diocese, representing another Catholic school, Santa Margarita, won a preliminary injunction barring the Southern Section from disclosing the punishment imposed by Santa Margarita for rules violations.
Lilyengren said the two cases are not related. The Southern Section declined comment.
In a written statement, Lilyengren said, "Mater Dei has been a member of the CIF-SS for nearly 60 years and has complied fully with all obligations required of it as a member school. 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."
-- Eric Sondheimer
For the record: An earlier version of this story had the water polo player transferring from Corona del Mar. It was Newport Harbor. And Todd Hunt's hearing is Wednesday, not Tuesday.