Many tears were shed Friday after a judge refused to reinstate a girl's basketball team that was disqualified from the CIF Division I playoffs
The Eastlake Titans were kicked out of the playoffs because one of their players allegedly lived outside the district and was ineligible to play for the team. the San Diego Section said the team forfeited 13 regular-season and one playoff game as a result.
After hearing from both sides, Judge Jeffrey Barton told the team he was sorry their year had to come to an "unfortunate" end but that he had to follow the law. He said there was "substantial" evidence to show that player Unzi Park did not live inside the district.
The team attended the hearing and maintained their composure during the ruling. Outside the courtroom, however, they fell apart. In tears, star player Cheyenne Curley-Payne, who filed the suit, said she was disappointed and said the CIF was always picking on her school. When asked how she felt about Park, Cheyenne said, "I'll always have her back."
For her part, Park maintained she lived where she said she lived and it should never have come to this.
The girls left the court house together in tears.
CIF lawyer Constantine Buzanis said he, too, was sorry for the team but insisted that the rules are in place to "create a level playing field for all schools." He said "this is not just about Eastlake, it's about other schools and athletes who follow the rules."
Buzanis said coaches are recruiting athletes from outside the district to play for their teams, telling them to do "whatever they can" to get into a particular school district. He said the lesson for all parents, students and coaches is to "do the right thing and have victory with honor."
Cheyenne's father, Stewart Paine, said the rules are not enforced fairly. He said that recruiting is happening at schools throughout the county and that the CIF does not have a mechanism to enforce them across the board. Regardless, he maintained, Park was not ineligible to play .