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Position of power

As Sac-Joaquin Section president, Rick Spears helps make and enforce rules affecting high school sports
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Rick Spears has seen high school sports from a variety of angles. As a student, he played high school sports. As an educator, he coached them ” football, basketball and baseball, to be specific ” for a number of years. As a parent, he watched his children's games. And as an athletic director, he saw the administrative side of high school sports. Colfax High School's principal has brought all of those perspectives to his position as president of the California Interscholastic Federation's Sac-Joaquin Section, a role he has served in for almost two years. I've always liked athletics and been interested in it, Spears said. It's one of the biggest things we do for kids, and it's a big part of their lives. I wanted to help make it the best we can. The section president's job is a non-paid position for which Spears only gets reimbursed for mileage and the occasional plane ticket for meetings in Southern California. In addition to running meetings of the Sac-Joaquin Section's Board of Managers, which creates a lot of the rules and regulations section schools must abide by, Spears serves as one of four area representatives at meetings of the Federated Council, the CIF's legislative body. Spears is gone from Colfax High six days out of the school year for state or section meetings. I've got two great vice principals, Spears said. When I'm gone, they take care of things. They afford me the opportunity to go. Still, being section president involves more than running meetings. Earlier this school year, for instance, Spears was involved in sanctioning the football program at Stockton's Franklin High School. When it was discovered that Franklin had recruited players from American Samoa, those players were declared ineligible. What really angered section officials, however, was that the players were used in Franklin's first game after the eligibility ruling came down. (Franklin was) told those players couldn't play, and they played anyway, Spears said. I've never seen anybody just out-and-out disobey what the section told them to do. The section initially responded by shutting down Franklin's varsity program for two years and barring all of the school's varsity teams from the postseason. That was primarily to get their attention, Spears said. Eventually, Franklin's sentence was reduced. The football program will be banned from the section playoffs next fall and will be closely watched by section officials for the next five years. All of Franklin's other programs had their playoff eligibility restored. Because lawyers got involved in the matter, Franklin also had to pay a large share of the attorney's fees. Dealing with that situation, it was important to try to do right, and I think we did a good job with it, Spears said. Spears also played a role in implementing a statewide rule regarding transfers last spring. Athletes now get one free transfer before their sophomore year. After that, an athlete who transfers has to sit out for one year unless the athlete and his or her parents or guardians move to the area where the athlete's school is located. The rule does have some hardship exceptions, Spears said. But now an athlete can't just transfer just because he or she has an argument with the coach or something like that, he said. Spears could soon have an even bigger role in California high school sports. He is a candidate for president of the CIF. They were struggling to find someone to do it, Spears said of why he chose to run. A lot of the guys on the Federated Council are near retirement age. Even though I'm not that young, I'm one of the younger ones. The CIF election will take place the first weekend in May. Since the other candidate is from the Los Angeles area and Southern California has more votes on the Federated Council than Northern California does, Spears expects the other candidate to win. She's a good lady, Spears said. She'll do a good job.