Case closed, with an emphatic thump.
On Wednesday, a Stockton judge denied the Stockton Unified School District's request to halt sanctions against Franklin High School for recruiting football players from American Samoa, chiding school officials in the process.
Shortly after the judge's decision, Franklin football coach Tom Verner announced his resignation, effective immediately.
San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Lesley Holland decided in favor of the Sac-Joaquin Section and its commissioner, Pete Saco, who ruled three of Franklin's football players ineligible and imposed a five-year playoff ban on the program for recruiting violations.
Despite Saco's ruling, SUSD allowed the three players to compete against Tracy last Friday. As a result, the Sac-Joaquin Section board of managers voted unanimously on Tuesday to shut down the football program entirely through the 2009-10 season. The board also barred Franklin's winter and spring sports programs from playoff competition.
"SUSD has shown an appalling and reckless disregard for the interests of Franklin's other current players as well as the entire Franklin community," Holland wrote in his 10-page ruling. "The architects of this disaster are coaches and administrators at Franklin High School and Stockton Unified School District."
SUSD superintendent Jack McLaughlin says the district will now appeal to the state's California Interscholastic Federation.
"We're disappointed that (the hearing) didn't support our efforts in defending the students," McLaughlin said. "We're going to follow the appeal process that's laid out immediately."
Holland wrote in his ruling that
SUSD's failure to go through the CIF's appeals process initially was "fatal" to SUSD's motion.
Saco had little to say about the ruling.
"The judge's decision speaks for itself," he said.
After Wednesday's hearing, Verner stood outside the San Joaquin County Courthouse and told reporters he'd "resign in a heartbeat" if it meant the sanctions against Franklin would be lifted. Regardless of whether the sanctions are eventually lifted, Verner announced his resignation just hours later, ending his 14-year tenure as head coach.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Verner told the News-Sentinel. "I went to the school and had some tremendous kids - and I don't mean athletically - just wonderful kids.
The Flames and Yellowjackets were supposed to play on Nov. 9 in a regular-season finale, but alternatives could be forthcoming.
Lodi athletic director Gary Knackstedt has already arranged a contest against Linden for the freshman team, but games for the frosh-soph and varsity squads are still up in the air. Knackstedt heard that Pitman High of Turlock had an open date that week and he hopes to hear something today.
"There's a very good chance we'll have a game," Lodi coach Todd Dillon said.
- News-Sentinel staff.
"We got rid of a lot of the racial tension at the school through football. I think we did some very constructive things."
Verner's decision should appease Larie, a grandmother of a Franklin cheerleader who declined to give her last name, who held up a sign that read: "Verner leave. Let the kids play."
"He did illegal things, and now the kids are suffering," said Larie. "The kids are the victims. If he can't follow the rules, he needs to go. I know he's put money into the school, but now he's hurting the school."
Many Franklin supporters attended the hearing, including a large gathering of football players - many of whom still backed their coach.
"I don't blame Verner," said Jerrit Ybarra, a junior defensive lineman for Franklin. "He's been there for everything. He's like a father figure."
When asked if they'd play football for rival schools Edison, Chavez or Stagg next year - an option created by the board of managers to allow student-athletes to continue football while their own program is shut down - several players said, "Never."
While the section board banned all spring and winter sports teams at Franklin from the playoffs, that sanction could be lifted if SUSD shows it will comply with section bylaws. The district has until Dec. 15 to present a plan to the section office, which would be ruled upon at a January board meeting.
"Our plan is to follow all the bylaws," McLaughlin said. "Of course, we feel we've followed all the bylaws, but we'll have to have some discussion on that."
As for Verner, McLaughlin said the coach apologized for any problems he may have caused the district.