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Tully talk: Much goes wrong with the Bell-Jeff football program

October 22, 2013|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com
  • Jeff Tully
Jeff Tully (File Photo )

It was evident in June that the Bellarmine-Jefferson High football program was in trouble. With new Coach Lance Fauria on the job for just one month and the team suffering from a low turnout, Bell-Jeff didn't participate in spring practices.

At the time, Fauria, also the school's athletic director, was already concerned about the Guards' low numbers and prospects for the 2013 season. It was then that the Bell-Jeff administration and its coach should have resigned themselves to the fact that being able to safely field a competitive team was not going to be possible this season. It is at that point that they should have shut down the season and canceled all of Bell-Jeff's games.

But that was not what happened. Instead, Bell-Jeff Principal Michael Stumph and Fauria moved forward on a season that ended up in shambles last week when the school canceled the team's final three games. In the process, the safety of young players was put at risk, the Guards were saddled with three lopsided losses on the field and the program is now worse off because of the decisions of Stumph and Fauria.

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It also hurt the program that the principal and coach didn't get ahead of the situation from the start. Instead of tackling the problems head-on, the two weren't upfront about the difficulties within the program. When contacted last week when information of Bell-Jeff shutting down the remainder of the season came to light, Stumph didn't return calls and Fauria said he had nothing to say about the situation and would prefer to talk about it at a later date.

Fauria sent out a press release announcing a cancellation of one of the Guards' games earlier in the campaign and another on Saturday detailing the scrapping of the remainder of the season.

That was definitely the wrong way to deal with a struggling program.

Nearby Flintridge Prep dealt with similar struggles during the 2011 season, but it handled it very differently. During the campaign, low numbers forced the Rebels to cancel a number of games. But unlike Bell-Jeff, Prep Coach Antonio Harrison and the school's principal dealt with the situation with openness and candor, and didn't try to hide what the program was going through.

Just one year removed from that struggling season, Flintridge Prepenjoyed success during the 2012 campaign, which included going 6-5, finishing second in the Prep League, notching its first winning season since 2007 and winning its first playoff game since 2003.

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