Bylaws, disqualifications and misplaced blame

Mercury News Staff Columnist

It didn't take long last week before Nancy Lazenby Blaser was bombarded with nasty letters and e-mails. Several angry parents characterized the Central Coast Section commissioner as a vengeful, two-headed monster who hates kids.

And those were the nice ones.

Lazenby Blaser has been under fire since she disqualified more than a dozen teams from playoff competition -- in girls volleyball, girls tennis and cross-country -- for violating section bylaws. Parents were incensed, saying Lazenby Blaser was punishing kids who worked hard all year.

``You have to be pretty tough,'' Lazenby Blaser said. ``Everyone has an opinion, and it's high-profile stuff. I try to remember they're venting, they love their children and they're passionate.

``But you can't say it doesn't affect you. I'm just getting ripped, beaten and bloodied. This is the worst professional experience I've ever had.''

It never should have happened. The CCS holds training sessions at the beginning of each academic year at three locations to ensure that schools understand the bylaws, which also are posted on the section's Web site. Athletic directors are responsible for making sure their coaches understand the rules -- especially when the playoff hopes of hard-working student-athletes are on the line.

Lazenby Blaser's job is to enforce the rules given to her by the Board of Managers, composed of principals and athletic directors from the section's 11 leagues. (The CCS governs more than 115 schools stretching from San Francisco to King City.) Bylaws are created through a process involving committees of coaches, league representatives, athletic directors and principals.

From there Lazenby Blaser is told, ``We all agree to abide by these rules, and you make sure we do.''

So when teams don't comply, even with some of the more trivial rules, Lazenby Blaser is forced to dole out the punishment. And once she does, the blame falls in her lap.

``I don't agree with some rules, but it's still my duty to enforce them,'' she said.

The trouble this season began at the section's playoff-seeding meetings. It was discovered that seven volleyball coaches had altered results from a September tournament, which had been sanctioned with a sideout-scoring, first-to-15 format. At the last minute the coaches agreed to change to the faster rally scoring; games would go to 25 points but wouldn't take as long, allowing a 13th team to participate and still get the tournament finished in time.

The coaches agreed to deduct 10 points from each game to make it appear as though sideout scoring was used.

No harm, no foul.

But the moment they turned in the scores to the CCS on the season summary sheet, they violated the fraud bylaw. One coach had realized this during the season and decided not to list his results from the tournament. When that was noticed at the seeding meeting, it started a chain of events that brought the violation into the open.

A few days later, it was learned that the Monta Vista tennis team had been flagged for using a different lineup in its first-round playoff match than it had fielded in its final two regular-season contests. (The rule exists, coaches say, to prevent teams from stacking.) It raised to eight the number of teams that saw their seasons cut short for violating the fraud bylaw -- eight instances more than had occurred in CCS history.

``You can't change the rules, it's that simple,'' said Ed Ravenscroft, commissioner of the West Catholic Athletic League and a member of the Board of Managers. ``Instead of pointing the finger at Nancy, they should say, `My coach or my school messed up. Let's get it corrected for next time.' ''

Barb Beard, commissioner of the 22-school Blossom Valley Athletic League, which saw six cross-country teams disqualified for not filing necessary paperwork, agreed.

``She has to follow the rules. Her job is to enforce the rules,'' Beard said. ``If they are listed, and that's what they say, she must do that.''

Said Lazenby Blaser, who has held her post for 13 years: ``This is not something I was eager to do. I can't just throw bylaws out the window. People think I have a lot more power than I do.''

SIGNINGS: Los Gatos catcher Travis Howell and pitcher Alex Rollin have signed letters-of-intent with Cal. The seniors have been teammates since Little League. . . . Westmont shortstop Josh Herzbrun signed with Pacific. . . . Khalilah Daniels, a forward on the Mitty girls basketball team who averaged 10.3 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season, signed with Loyola Marymount.

ALL-LEAGUE: Coaches and athletic directors should send all-league teams for fall sports to the Mercury News at or fax to (408) 920-5244.