SAMOHI — A denial by school officials has forced standout wide receiver Sebastian LaRue and his family to scramble for an off-campus location to hold a ceremony to honor his selection to an elite national all-star game.
Jason Kurtenbach, a house principal at Santa Monica High School, said that the administration wanted to do what was “right for Sebastian” in denying sports network ESPN and athletic gear maker Under Armour’s request to hold a ceremony on campus to note LaRue’s selection to a prestigious all-star game the two companies sponsor.
In an e-mail exchange between LaRue’s mother Donomique Dane and Principal Laurel Fretz, Fretz stated that she didn’t think it was in LaRue’s best interest.
“If we didn’t care about Sebastian and his future, we would say, ‘Whatever. Sure, let’s do some ceremonies.’ But seriously, we cannot support a sporting good company coming to campus to take advantage of Sebastian in order to sell shirts.”
Fretz could not be reached for comment.
The decision didn’t sit well with Athletic Director Daniel Escalera.
“Eligibility was a concern,” he said, “but, I wanted [the ceremony] to happen.”
Escalera said that officials were concerned that this may hurt LaRue’s scholarship offer from USC, but other schools across the country allow the practice to occur, which is vexing to the family.
Escalera and Kurtenbach both said that the ultimate decision came from the school’s principal, Fretz. But, both agreed that they would like to see a procedure in place to allow events like these to occur in the future.
The LaRue family had gone back and forth with the school in an attempt to clear the event to no avail. Realizing the school’s hesitance to host the ceremony, they decided to go in a different direction because the crew staging the event was only in the Southern California area for a limited time.
As for LaRue himself, he can’t help but be a little emotional about the decision.
“I’m just hurt by the whole situation.” he said. “I felt like this was honoring the school, but they don’t feel the same way.”
This most recent incident is just the latest for the LaRue family.
Dane exchanged a number of e-mails with administrators that articulated her disapproval of the release of the player’s transcripts to colleges interested in offering him a scholarship.
LaRue ultimately agreed to commit to USC, but there were a bevy of schools that were recruiting him and still are. Dane wrote to school officials opposing their release of transcripts to the University of Nebraska without the consent of LaRue’s parents.
Dane has since sealed her son’s transcripts, but is still upset at the entire situation.
“This has been going on for a while,” Dane said, “Since he has been there, it has been a tug-of-war for any little thing.”
Head Coach Travis Clark sympathizes with the family, saying that he would have liked the ceremony to take place on campus.
“It’s too bad that it went down this way,” Clark said. “I’m just proud of Sebastian.”