On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the varsity girls volleyball team at North Hollywood High was forced to forfeit a previous victory against Arleta because they wore uniforms with a dominant color that is not one of the school’s official hues. This is not the first time such a violation has occurred in the California Interscholastic Federation’s City Section — see the 2010 East L.A. Classic, for further proof — but this one apparently comes with a previously unreported twist: According to multiple players from the North Hollywood team, the person who turned the team in to City Section authorities was none other than the school’s assistant athletic director himself.
In a series of discussions with USA Today granted on the condition of anonymity, multiple North Hollywood volleyball players provided identical tales of the events that led to NoHo’s volleyball forfeit to Arleta, a match which the Huskies had actually won, three games to one. The team purchased black jerseys for the 2014 season after seeing the varsity boys volleyball team compete in black unis in Spring 2014. The Huskies were wearing those uniforms when they took the court against Arleta on September 29, and NoHo assistant athletic director Ken Harris was in the gym and watched the school’s team warm up.
According to the players, Harris made no comment to the team or coach Robert Balsells, and left before the match started.
What happened next qualifies as both surprising and a bit bizarre. According to the players, Harris self-reported the North Hollywood team for a uniform violation to City Section chief John Aguirre. Bearing that information, Aguirre ruled on October 16 that NoHo must forfeit its match against Aguirre. That date might seem innocuous enough, but it also coincided with another important moment: The Los Angeles Daily News had just published a story about the Huskies’ victory against state powerhouse Verdugo, extolling the rise of the North Hollywood program, noting that it was on the verge of a first league title in 18 years.
In fact, that league title is still possible, but the enforced Arleta loss has made life much more difficult. North Hollywood had just knocked off Verdugo when it was handed the forfeit. With the Arleta match still in the win column, NoHo would be in a dominant place, practically guaranteed to finish in first place. Now they are hoping to finish in a tie for first place with Verdugo.
The North Hollywood players are understandably distraught that they had a win taken away from them for something as small as a uniform technicality. Yet, what they’re more curious about is why Harris would report the team. According to the players, Harris has steadfastly insisted that he self-reported the violation in an effort to minimize the punishment against the Huskies. That’s possible, though it begs the question of why he didn’t warn the team before the game he saw. There was still time for the team to change uniforms before taking the court against Arleta, yet Harris remained quiet and then allegedly reported the team’s violation later.
And if he reported the girls volleyball team, why did Harris not report the boys squad for using almost identical uniforms the previous Spring?
USA Today reached Harris via telephone Thursday evening but he politely declined comment, instead directing queries to North Hollywood principal Ricardo Rosales. The principal’s assistant took a message for Rosales and promised that he would return our call, yet no return call was made on Thursday.
Meanwhile, there are also enforcement questions that are worth asking related to the violation. As noted here, when Roosevelt High wore illegal black uniforms against Garfield, the Rough Riders were only handed a one-year probation for the football program, not a loss. Given that North Hollywood’s violation is virtually identical (even the illegal color is the same), why did City Section officials dock NoHo a competitive match as opposed to sending a warning across the bow?
As is often the case, North Hollywood’s enforced forfeit raises far more questions than it gives answers. At the end of the day, the people hurt are the players themselves, precisely the people who did nothing intentionally wrong.