Saturday, May 7, 2011

SoCal coaches’ bad week has slush fund, middle school star

You know that VH1 show "Best Week Ever"? Well, not only would the Southern California prep coaching community not earn a spot on the show this week, it could very well anchor a polar opposite program. Thanks to a pair of truly unseemly incidents, SoCal coaches may very be in the midst of their worst week ever.

Lapes Athletic Team Sales

The higher profile of the two ignominious cases against coaching Californians came to light on Wednesday night, when the PBS program Real Orange aired allegations that Orange County prep coaches had been receiving improper payments from a sports clothing and gear company.

The company in question was the now defunct Lapes Athletic Team Sales, a Laguna Hills-based purveyor (its former headquarters is pictured above) which went closed in 2008, some eight years after it first initiated a "secret slush fund" through which to pay public school coaches. The self-appointed slush fund pushed as much as $700,000 to Southern California coaches, stretching its tentacles out to a whopping 29 schools in Orange County.

Capistrano Valley football coach Eric Patton

While there were a number of different coaches and staffs identified, the Orange County Register illuminated two particularly damning examples in this report on the slush fund. According to the Register, San Clemente (Calif.) High football coach Eric Patton, pictured at right, received roughly $10,000 from the fund, none of which was ever reported to school officials.

More strikingly, Capistrano Valley (Calif.) High football coach Chi Chi Biehn is tied to an astounding $152,000 in money funneled through Lapes Athletic, with those payments used for extravagant fishing trips and Christmas presents, among other improper benefits. Biehn resigned from his post at Capistrano Valley in 2009.

As if the financial issues weren't enough, Southern California also suffered from a truly unseemly incident focused on boys tennis in Chino Hills. According to the Chino Hills Champion, a weekly newspaper covering the community, Chino Hills (Calif.) High boys tennis coaches Deddy Halim and Siantie Hioe were fired for using a junior high student during the recently concluded season.

The paper reported that the student in question was a seventh grader, and that the coaches knowingly fielded him despite his clear and evident underage status. The incident was later reported to Chino Hills administration, which promptly fired the walk-on coaches, who are not full-time employees of the school.

Of course, these two incidents raise a stirring question: What is worse, taking illicit bribes to pad one's income, or cheating by exploiting a deeply underage athlete? In the case of this forgettable week in Southern California, no choice is really needed, as we can all reflect on both.

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