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Mater Dei, Southern Section reach agreement to settle lawsuit

November 1, 2012 | 11:48 am

The Diocese of Orange and Santa Ana Mater Dei have reached an agreement in principle to settle a 2-year-old lawsuit against the Southern Section that alleged unfair treatment and discrimination against Mater Dei athletes, attorney Jerome Jackson said Thursday.

A notice of settlement is expected to be filed Friday.

Jackson, who represented Mater Dei and the diocese, said his clients are satisfied that a change in attitude has occurred at the Southern Section office, citing the retirement of former Commissioner Jim Staunton and the hiring of new Commissioner Rob Wigod.

“This was never about money,” Jackson said. “It was about fairness.”

Jackson said Wigod’s decision to create a new advisory panel of private school administrators, including Mater Dei President Patrick Murphy, was an important sign of the Southern Section’s changes under Wigod.

“Wigod is someone who views private schools in general and Mater Dei, in particular, as assets, not threats,” Jackson said.

Eleven assistant commissioners, coaches and administrators were deposed during the legal skirmishes in preparation for a trial that never happened. More than $109,000 in attorney fees was spent by the California Interscholastic Federation defending the Southern Section. Neither Staunton nor former CIF Executive Director Marie Ishida ended up being deposed.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 after two transfer students, football player Todd Hunt and water polo player Jon Walters, were denied athletic eligibility at Mater Dei.

-- Eric Sondheimer