Officials at Rancho Christian High School say their football program is solid despite an immediate crisis that has some parents and students worried.
“We’ve cried over this,” said an emotional Ryan Wikert, athletic director for Rancho Christian.
Wikert’s remarks came late Tuesday afternoon as the school’s leaders and one CIF representative assembled in the campus’s Worship Center to answer parent and player questions about the firing of the head football coach and the future of the sport at Rancho Christian.
According to Rancho Christian President Scott Treadway, Jameison has been offered a paid leave of absence, but the campus leader said he doesn’t know whether the coach would accept.
Many of the approximately 100 people gathered Tuesday showed support for Jameison – who was not present -- and questioned his sudden release.
“He’s the fall guy,” many said.
Jameison “made” Rancho’s football program from the ground up just 14 months ago, but he was pushing too hard, too fast, Treadway said, noting that when faced with this season’s schedule ahead, the player infrastructure just wasn’t there.
“We got ahead of ourselves in terms of football,” he explained.
School officials were in sync with Jameison’s vision for the program, but there was disagreement on how to get there, Treadway claimed.
“We weren’t on the same trajectory,” he argued.
The issue blew up three weeks ago when school officials realized they didn’t have the player depth to tackle this season’s game schedule, Treadway said.
When the team met up against Whittier La Serna Aug. 24 for a preseason contest, some in the audience Tuesday said Rancho Christian should have forfeited due to an obvious mismatch. The coaching decision was made, however, to play with a handful of Rancho Christian varsity players and the rest from the school’s junior varsity squad.
The choice cost the team in injuries and a big 43-6 loss.
It also took a toll on the senior players’ football future: With an extensive injured-player list and a shallow pool of varsity talent, the school decided to abandon its varsity football program.
The verdict was rendered with the help of “misinformation” provided by the CIF, which incorrectly concluded that Rancho Christian senior players could transfer to another school because the varsity program was being forced to shut down. But when CIF officials looked closer, they realized the hardship rule only applied if the school abandoned its entire football program, including its middle school, junior varsity and varsity programs that comprise about 37 players in total.
Additionally, because the seniors saw game play last week, they are ineligible for the hardship: Under CIF rules, players are prohibited from representing more than one school during a given season.
The CIF official present Tuesday conceded the misinformation was indeed relayed. As a result, school officials are hopeful there will be an exception to allow the five Rancho Christian senior players who saw game play Aug. 24 to transfer to another school. Two of the players are from Moreno Valley, two are from Lake Elsinore and one is from Temecula, according to star varsity player Daruis Geater, 18.
Geater plays various positions on the field and is at a Division I level, Wikert said. Geater and his teammates are hopeful the CIF will allow them to transfer so they can get on with football and possible scholarships. Geater said he has already heard from several colleges.
“We want the mistake to be undone,” he added.
Treadway said his top priority is to ensure the players are allowed to transfer. If that doesn’t happen, he said the seniors can still play at Rancho Christian and the school’s coaches, coordinator and athletic director will cobble together a schedule week-by-week, similar to last season. (Rancho Christian is not eligible to be in a league until 2014, Treadway explained.)
“Our JV program is solid and there is tremendous potential. As for the seniors, we will do whatever it takes,” he said, promising the athletic staff is committed to helping players get notice from colleges. “Our top concern is these kids.”