‘Undue Influence’ Renders LCHS Star Ineligible

Rosa Beasley and her son, Drake, a highly touted football player, met La Cañada High School football coach Ryan Zerbel for the first time at the school in early August, according to the coach.
They were on campus, Zerbel said, because they were dropping off Drake’s brother at a Gladiators youth football practice. LCHS assistant coach Jeremy Cisneros was there because he also coaches Gladiators players.
Cisneros introduced Rosa Beasley to Zerbel, and she asked a question about registering her son, Drake, at LCHS.
The encounter may have seemed innocent enough, but the California Interscholastic Federation applies strict standards about contact between coaches and athletes seeking transfers. And on the basis of that conversation, apparently, the CIF-Southern Section last week ruled Drake Beasley Jr., a star running back, ineligible for the season before he was ever able to play a down for the Spartans. La Cañada Unified School District officials believe the decision was based on “undue influence.”
In three years at Loyola High School in Los Angeles, Beasley established himself as one of the best running backs in the state. Last season, as a junior, he rushed for 1,647 yards and 17 touchdowns, which earned him college scholarship offers from a number of schools, including several in the Pac-12 Conference.
Zerbel said he knew none of that before meeting his mother in August.
“I said, ‘Hi,’” Zerbel said. “She goes, ‘Hi, I’m Rosa Beasley. I wanted to know how I can register my son.’ I said, ‘You have to download the forms and you take them to the district office.’ I said, ‘Until you do that, we can’t talk.’ That was the end of the conversation.”
Pending a possible appeal to the CIF state office, that brief conversation may have ended Drake Beasley’s high school football career prematurely.
The CIF-SS, the governing board for high school sports in most of Southern California, based its ineligibility ruling on a violation of Rule 510, which covers undue influence, pre-enrollment contact, failure to disclose pre-enrollment contact and athletically motivated transfers.
The Beasleys moved to LCF during the summer, at which time Drake announced he was transferring to LCHS. Loyola challenged the transfer, prompting the investigation by the CIF.
Zerbel denies there was undue influence, and a private investigator hired by La Cañada Unified School District (at a cost of $3,480) concurred.
According to the LCUSD, David Sobel, president of a licensed, full-service investigations firm based in Escondido, produced a 100-plus page report. That document was filed with CIF as one of 11 it reviewed in response to the protest by Loyola, a perennial Division 1 power.
LCHS plays in Division 12, has produced a winning record only once in the past nine seasons and hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. Beasley is LCHS’s highest-profile transfer since Chris Smith, who played in 1982 and ’83. Smith became a two-time All-American at BYU and was selected in the 11th round of the 1991 NFL draft.
The LCUSD’s report proved Beasley’s residency in LCF and, more importantly, that there was no evidence of undue influence, said Jeff Davis, assistant superintendent of human resources.
“Our goal was to find the truth,” Davis said. “[Sobel] believed that he got all the information needed and that it was truthful. His report … finds no evidence of undue influence.”
The CIF, however, interpreted the report differently. Officials there registered a problem.
Rule 510 reads, in part, that “pre-enrollment contact of an athletically motivated transfer may be considered [sufficient evidence] that the student enrolled in that school in whole or in part for athletic reasons. … Athletically motivated pre-enrollment contact of any kind by anyone from, or associated with, a school or its athletic programs to which a student may transfer or move into the attendance area is not permitted.”
CIF officials said they were unable to comment on the specific case, but spokesman Thom Simmons acknowledged that, hypothetically, even a phone call from a student to a coach regarding only basic enrollment questions would constitute athletically motivated pre-enrollment contact.
“Yes,” Simmons wrote in an email. “… The only person by rule that is allowed to have contact with a student not enrolled in that school is the school’s administration, not a coach or a player.”
Zerbel, formerly the principal at LCHS 7/8, said he thought he had a handle on CIF rules. “I was an administrator,” he said. “I told my coaches, ‘Don’t get trapped in anything or discuss any athletics. Refer them to us. You can’t talk to them until they attempt to enroll.’
“For them to say [this is] undue influence, I’m just really bothered by it. At this point in my coaching career, I don’t know what undue influence is, because now what does that mean? A parent comes up to me and says, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Zerbel, is the restroom over there?’ I just walk away and say, ‘I can’t talk to you, talk to the administration’?”
Drake Beasley has declined to comment. His parents didn’t respond to interview requests over social media — where the hashtag #FREEDRAKE gained traction last week.
The player’s father, Drake Beasley Sr., posted an explanation on Facebook about the family’s move to LCF. It read: “Boosters from Loyola stopped funding us. We ended up moving, and this is what we are dealing with. We couldn’t afford it so we left. They want to control us like we’re their property.”
Zerbel said the Beasleys decision to move to LCF was solely a “human decision” from which the Spartan football program would have benefited.
“Everybody looks at it as Drake Beasley the football player and not looking at it as Drake Beasley the young man,” said Zerbel, who noted that Beasley has a 3.5 grade-point average and scored 31 out of a maximum 36 on the ACT college-entrance exam.
“His world was turned upside down at Loyola and it was gone. Once that was gone, his decision for another school was based strictly on, No. 1, academics, and No. 2, so he can come to La Cañada and already have a group of people he knew and associated with because he played with these kids [in the Gladiators program].”
LCUSD representatives stressed that they respect the work done by the CIF — “They’re the experts,” Davis said — but Zerbel said it’s difficult to accept this ruling.
“I understand the tough position that CIF and [Commissioner] Rob Wigod is put into, trying to manage hundreds of schools and many transfers,” Zerbel said. “Many people do it for the wrong reasons. But, respectfully, they got this one wrong. I know for a fact there were numerous schools clamoring for [Beasley’s] services and offering beyond tuition, beyond just-come-play-football, and his parents try to do the right thing. And they still get denied.”
Beasley and LCUSD plan to appeal to CIF State, a process that includes a non-refundable administrative fee of $150. The appeal is expected to be decided within 20 days. If the appeal fails, Beasley can also transfer to another school, sit out 30 days and then play the remainder of his senior season. Or he can remain at LCHS and, if the appeal is denied, lose out on his senior season of football and focus on his future.
“We’ll be back bigger, faster and stronger for the next level,” Drake Beasley Sr. wrote on Facebook. “Wherever he commits to, he’ll make an immediate impact!”
Until then, Beasley Jr. has LCUSD’s support, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said in a statement.
“LCUSD and LCHS administration and staff will … continue to ensure that Drake Beasley Jr. is supported in all of his pursuits as our student throughout his senior year,” she wrote.

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