Home > General Comments, Sac-Jaoquin Section, San Diego Section, Southern Section > The CIF’s Kangaroo Appeals Court: Where Fair is Not Fair When it Comes to Eligibility.

The CIF’s Kangaroo Appeals Court: Where Fair is Not Fair When it Comes to Eligibility.

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) trades on the premise of being fair when it comes to evaluating student-athletes’ appeals of eligibility decisions. However, a detailed review of its own rules reveals its appeals processes to be nothing close to fair. In fact, it looks more like a fraternity or “old boy” club giving itself the flexibility to dispense with fairness in arbitrary and capricious ways while taking care of its family, friends and “fraternity brothers”.

According to CIF rules, a student has the right to appeal a decision made by CIF regarding eligibility at an appeals hearing set by CIF. As detailed in Parent Handbook II: Understanding the Transfer Eligibility Appeal Process, appeal hearings are held before an impartial review officer or impartial panel of three persons.

A cursory review of the rules and words used to describe said hearing would lead most reasonable people to believe the process to be no different than a traditional court of law. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

According the Parent Handbook:

“Appeals Panel members or Review Officers may be current or retired school district administrators or athletic directors, retired or current athletic administrators or retired Section officers. No Appeals Panel member may be employed by, or retired from, the schools, school districts, leagues or conferences involved in your appeal. The State Appeals Office sets the Appeals Panel.”

So, in the case of a CIF appeal hearing, it’s truly not possible for panel members to be impartial (definition) since the all have current or previous ties to CIF, be it directly or indirectly. A recent Auburn Journal story by Eric Gourley offers good insight into the appeals panel selection process.

Given panel members’ ties to CIF, it’s not unfair to conclude each would naturally have a predisposition to find in favor of and protect CIF. Even if panel members didn’t, the mere perception of partiality should cause one pause. It’s akin to having a fraternity brother or cousin on the jury at your own trial. No lawyer would allow such a thing to happen. It wouldn’t be fair. What CIF has is not impartial. It’s a process slanted in favor of CIF.

There is a simple solution to this problem. Add non-related individuals to the appeals panel. CIF would no doubt fight this, arguing non-related individuals wouldn’t be familiar with CIF Bylaws. While this perspective sounds reasonable, it’s a ruse. The assumption that CIF-related panel members understand the rules is simply wrong. The appeals panel I am familiar with wasn’t as familiar with the rules as one would hope and believe, especially with so much at stake. Sadly, nor was the CIF lawyer. Regardless, we’re not talking about rocket science here. It wouldn’t take too long for an “outsider” to bone up on CIF Bylaws and listen to a student-athlete’s case before making a decision.

So, what’s CIF afraid of here? Probably what it professes to seek, fairness. Introducing outsiders to the appeals process and panel instantly introduces transparency and fairness while, at the same time, eliminating cronyism and favoritism, perceived or real. We all know the stories. School A violates rules and CIF looks the others way. School B violates rules and the book gets thrown at them. CIF answer to this is, all cases are different. Alright then, if this isn’t the case, CIF should be willing to prove it by releasing facts around cases instead of hiding behind statements like, “It’s not CIF practice to release information…”

The use of the word “hearing” by CIF should also make one shudder. Clearly, CIF wants people to believe its “hearing” process is similar to that of a true court of law. You know, the one with due process and rules of evidence. Unfortunately, CIF’s “hearing” is not even a distant cousin of how you probably think a hearing is conducted. CIF’s Parent Handbook is clear about its appeal hearing procedures, “The technical rules of evidence and rules for the examination of witnesses do not apply.”

So, let’s break this down. The simplest summary is, California Rules of Evidence are NOT followed and, as such, hearsay evidence and innuendo are fully admissible and given standing. What’s that mean? It means CIF doesn’t have to prove its case with facts. A statement made by a third-party to the effect of, “I heard so and so say…” can lead to the denial of eligibility for a student athlete. Period. It’s truly an anything goes situation. The infamous, “he said, she said,” we all try to avoid is in full play.

Evidence as presented by CIF need be nothing more than innuendo and hearsay. Regardless of fact-based submissions in defense of the student athlete, ALL submissions are tragically treated equally and evaluated by an “impartial” (see above) appeals panel. Would you favor your fraternity brother or a stranger in a “he said, she said” argument?

CIF has in effect created a Kangaroo Court.

As I’ve said in previous posts, most people are too lazy to research and truly understand CIF Bylaws and rules.  Instead people take what’s implied in CIF statements at face value. The Kangaroo Court used for eligibility appeal hearings is a far cry from a true court of law. In the case of student athletes, it merely a tool for CIF to fool the public into believing there’s an appeals process, appeals panel and appeals hearing that’s fair and follows due process like our true court of law.

In the end it’s a way for CIF to continue its unfair and biased way of dispensing its version of fair while keeping the public at bay. This is indeed a sad situation for schools and student-athletes and is likely the underpinning of CIFs image problem with the public.

The fix is easy. CIF needs to establish a true appeals process for student-athletes. This is not too big an “ask” as far as I can tell.

So, what are you waiting for CIF?

  1. peakperformancebball@yahoo.com
    February 16, 2017 at 11:59 am

    CIF Saq Joaquin Section has violated due process!!! Our family was denied the opportunity according to COMMON LAW to review the allegations made by Bella Vista Highschool. Commissioner Michael Garrison made a ruling to sit our son for the entire season 2016-2017 and did not to allow us to rebut any allegations prior to making his ruling. Michael Garrison has violated due process and thinks he is above the law of the United States of America, called COMMON LAW. We went to the appeal which was a huge joke. First of all CIF violated due process. They did not have a witness list and still allowed their witnesses from Bella Vista Highschool to enter the appeal room. Bob Wallace is a CIF coordinator for CIF. Bob Wallace confirmed that Michael Garrison did not provide a witness list therefore Bella Vista Head Coach David Gonzales, Vice Principal Jennifer Petersen, and Athletic Director Andi Wright were not supposed to be in the appeal room. CIF disregard this! The appeal is a huge joke and is completely bias in favor of Bella Vista. Bella Vista did not provide one bit of evidence in the appeal, only verbals, of he said,she said etc. No documented evidence was provided by Bella Vista Highschool in Fair Oaks, CA. Our family have decided to pursue CIF and Bella Vista Highschool because of the injustice done to our son. I have the entire appeal on a recording that CIF provided. We are asking for anyone’s insight, support to help us with this gross injustice. I have spoken personally to Commissioner Michael Garrison, he is absolutely a Kronie, he thinks he is above the law and sees himself as immune to the Laws of our Land. The panel is made up of people that they choose. A discriminatory verbal statement by the Chairperson was directed against our son as we entered the room.
    The guy was absolutely disrespectful, who owes us an apology. He degraded our son in front of others. We provided evidence and text messages against Bella Vista Head Coach David Gonzales for falsifying and lying. Here is the most incriminating text from Coach Gonzales. “Not to us, I’m friends with Garrison and BV not that kinda school.” Sheldon was blatantly cheating.” To give you background on this text message Coach Gonzales falsified his address to get his son to transfer to Bella Vista, CIF put them on probation through 2017, but did not sit Coach Gonzalez son according to Violation 202.2b. I told Coach Gonalez that CIF can be strict, he said.”Not to us, I’m friends with Garrison and BV not that kinda school.” We are certain according to this text that Coach Gonzales has influence over CIF decisions. The bottom line is our son was a star basketball player at Bella Vista and we decided to transfer and Coach Gonzalez and Bella Vista staff were “Butt hurt”, and filed we were Athletically Motivated. We actually moved for academic reasons, for an Engineering Program that is offered at his new highschool. Please contact me at 916-759-2027

  2. May 13, 2013 at 7:10 am

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  3. Luisa Leuma
    April 6, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    My daughter recently has become a victim of CIF’s unfair and corrupted system. It is true regardless of all the facts you submit CIF uses the Buddy system. As recent as 2days ago my daughter was deemed ineligible to play softball at her current school by CIF after they were ordered to reconsider their original decision to deny her based on association. We did a full family move. Our family had to move due to some unforeseen circumstances. We enrolled my daughter in our district. Now after CIF reconvened with the same panel that originally denied my daughter. The panel was chaired by a Retired CIF Commissioner Jerry Dutton, the other panel member Merlin Driggs was another retired CIF commissioner and he 3rd member was a high school coach. Again denied my daughter eligibility.
    Basically their logic is insane. They basically said, had I shopped around for a school outside my district and got denied then my daughter would’ve been deemed eligible or I should’ve left my daughter in the town we lived in before that’s approximately 10miles away she would have been able to play. Leaving my daughter to continue school in our previous town was not an option, my daughter was not licensed to drive. I work 45minutes to an hour way from home and I start at 6am, my husband works at 7am n his work place is in the opposite direction. So what CIF is implying is a violation of their own bylaws which they absolutely don’t understand or practice.
    Two other girls transferred from the same school were denied under the same bylaw then later approved. People need to know how unfair, unjust and corrupted CIF really is.

    • Russ
      April 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      CIF in general is a joke. The Central Section people are nothing more than that white speck in chicken s#%t. I bet some of our legislature would like to know that our Commissioner golfed 15 days in the month of March and his assistant 12 days. Hmmm I wonder if they golfed under lights NOT!!!

      • Luisa Leuma
        April 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm

        Wow….what a waste of our tax $$$$. These people get paid over $120,000 a year to do right by our children and be honest and truthful. We should stand together and hold CIF responsible for the wrongful rulings they have made against our children. I submitted facts showing how my daughters previous high school Lemoore High softball coach Dionne Ewing literally asked another athlete who had moved away to Colorado with her family to return to win another valley ring. The athlete was asked in May 2012 and by August 2012 she moved back to California alone and moved in with the softball coach. The Central Section Commissioner Jim Critchlow told me he deemed the athlete ineligible due to the fact that she claimed a hardship based on grades which doesn’t meet the CIF criteria. He also told me even if the athlete appealed it she would lose. In less then 30days this child was deemed eligible and no punishment was given to the coach. A BUDDY system because Lemoore High School their athletic director is a past President of CIF. It’s truly a corrupted system. It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know.

      • peakperformancebball@yahoo.com
        February 16, 2017 at 12:19 pm

        Absolutely a corrupt system that deems itself above the common law. The CIF is not a real court room. They have no legal jurisdiction, they use their own panel to hear cases.

  4. CIF Concerned
    February 28, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I have my back against the wall with CIF disqualifying my son for play under their bylaws section 202, but their appeals form only allows appeal under bylaws 203, 204 and 205.

    Any ideas, lawyer information or insights welcome.

  5. Alex
    September 13, 2010 at 9:46 am

    I hole heartedly concur with all the above. And I would further add, that when school A makes their claim against said athlete, the cif stops the athlete immediately, before any hearing is held. This is the sentence before the trial! In many cases the athlete will miss half, if not all , of the season for no reason. This is clearly not fair. This area needs to addressed first in my opinion. If athlete is allowed to compete at school B, and it is later determined during a fair and comprehensive hearing that the athlete did in fact violate the rules, then and only then should there be a sanction or penalty imposed. May a big fine for the parents?

  6. Bitter Parent
    August 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    I not only completely agree, it sounds as if you are talking about the situation we just experienced with CIF. We moved. Our old school complained to CIF. We provided all the documentation outlined in the Bluebook as proof we had moved. Rent agreement and canceled checks for new home. Utilities abandoned at old house, new utilities in our name. All bills, credit cards and subscriptions were to new address. CIF SS didn’t care. They went along with old school’s speculation and allegations. We appealed. Hearing officer was a retired high school principal from Huntington Beach. The CIF SS commissioner was a Huntington beach high school principal. You can’t tell me they didn’t know each other. In addition, the hearing officer was once the president of the board of the CIF SS. In other words he was one of them. We never stood a chance in our appeal.

    • chris bish
      September 15, 2010 at 2:36 pm

      I am working with an attorney to appeal for my son. Do you have any of your CIF appeal paperwork we could use in our challange. it’s a longshot but have to do it for my kid

      • CIF Concerned
        February 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm

        Chris, what lawyer did you use and what were the results.


  7. Citizens Against CIF
    March 11, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Here, Here! Kangaroo Court proceedings is putting it mildly when it comes to CIF. Not only is cronyism and favoritism a significant barrier to fair appeal proceedings, it significantly impacts the decisions of the Governing Body, which is dysfunctional at best and here’s why: The individuals selected by CIF to serve on the board of managers are the same individuals, from the same school districts subject to the sanctions and decisions of the CIF Commissioners. If that’s not a conflict of interest, what is?

    Fixing CIF is no longer the responsibility of CIF. In their view, “Why fix what works for us.” It is the responsibility of the state legislature. Sure, a few Assembly members are working deligently to correct a longstanding problem in this state that significantly impacts kids lives, and we are grateful for them. But it’s time that the Governor step in and do what’s long overdue – Fix CIF or use the tax dollar toward a more worthy cause, such as teacher’s salaries!

    Citizens Against CIF

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