Frank Cruz

A former coach at a local Catholic high school is alleging its athletic director verbally and physically threatened him and devalued the school’s girls’ sports programs.

Neil Spanier, former coach of the St. Monica Catholic High School girls’ basketball team, filed a complaint last month against the school, its athletic director Frank Cruz and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles that accuses Cruz of misconduct and alleges the school and archdiocese condoned his actions. Cruz was fired from USC in 2013 for violating NCAA rules that limit how much time athletes can spend in activities directed or supervised by coaches.

St. Monica hired Spanier, a real estate agent, as the girls’ basketball team coach last June. Parents and students said the school and Cruz failed to support the team during the 2017-2018 season, so multiple girls had quit. Multiple parents described Cruz as rude, aggressive and demeaning, according to the complaint.

Spanier spent the summer of 2018 trying to create a positive environment for the remaining members of the team, he said, hiring two assistant coaches, paying for bonding events and running conditioning sessions. Eleven girls committed to play for the team by last October.

Spanier alleges that during that time, Cruz was unwilling to assist with the girls’ program and repeatedly put the boys’ program first. He would become aggressive and hostile toward Spanier during administrative discussions, even threatening to “cancel” the season more than once, according to the complaint.

Cruz became increasingly volatile as the school year continued, often swearing and yelling at him, Spanier alleges. Spanier said Cruz also failed to provide him with the stipend he was promised before he was hired and reimburse him for money he spent on the team, such as thousands of dollars for team uniforms.

When Spanier informed Cruz he would not coach the team beyond the 2018-2019 season, a decision he made because Cruz’s behavior made him uncomfortable, Cruz met with him and aggressively berated him, according to the complaint. Spanier told Cruz he could no longer serve as head coach because of the hostile environment he created, and Cruz screamed curses at him, blocked him from leaving the room and threatened him with physical violence within earshot of students.

A few days later, Spanier emailed Cruz and St. Monica’s principal, James Spellman, relaying what had happened and that he feared for his physical safety and could not continue as the girls’ basketball coach. He also filed a police report with the Santa Monica Police Department and officers met with Spellman.

Spanier alleges St. Monica did not take any action against Cruz, who continues to serve as athletic director. He also alleges the school has been made aware of similar behavior from Cruz toward other adults and students in the past.

The complaint seeks damages for pain and humiliation, as well as money Spanier lost while coaching the team, to be determined at trial.

The archdiocese said in a statement that Spanier and Cruz differed in coaching philosophies and Spanier’s complaint does not allege any misconduct involving St. Monica High School students.

“As this is a personnel matter there is no further information to share,” a spokesperson said.

This article was updated Apr. 9 at 12:45 p.m.

madeleine@smdp.com

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6 Comments

  1. So glad Frank Cruz is finally getting his comeuppance – long overdue. There are years of complaints by staff, coaches, and parents but the school did nothing to stop him. They wouldn’t listen or take action against him and so here we are. Why he was hired in the first place after misdeeds at USC is anyone’s guess. Maybe St Monica will finally wake up and listen to those who care about the school and students.

  2. To St Monica’s supporter…. you should probably get your facts straight before commenting on a subject you know nothing about. USC supported him and it was a lazy student/ athlete who complained about practicing too much! It’s often the parents who’s child has bad grades which make them ineligible or they didn’t do all the requirements they should have in order to play sports, those are the ones who don’t like the rules or requirements they have to do. As an athletic director there are certain rules and regulations that must be followed and that’s exactly how Mr. Cruz operates. Most people don’t like rules and regulations so they take it out on the person who’s enforcing it. Sounds exactly whats happening with Mr. Spaniers allegations. Mr. Cruz is a great addition to the St. Monica’s family.

  3. The facts are that Frank Cruz was fired from USC for knowingly violating NCAA rules. He brought that stellar reputation to St Monica where he is the first athletic director at the center of a lawsuit against the school. Anyone see a pattern here? This has nothing to do with practice time and everything to do with an inability to follow rules and treating people with regard and respect. His record speaks for itself.

  4. First off he didn’t violate NCAA RULES !!! Get your facts straight!!! A student who practices in batting cages on school property is who broke the rules and he just took the heat!!! The person who filed that lawsuit is a moron… he chose to buy new uniforms when he wasn’t suppose too and no one said they would reimburse him!! And the idiot bought black uniforms since when does St. Monica’s ever wear black uniforms. In order to treat people with respect you have to gain respect! You only know what u read online about him and don’t know the actual truth so you need so you really need to keep quiet!

  5. I believe they’ve lost both soccer coaches during the year, football coach, barely able to field a softball team, 3rd or 4th head coach in 4-5 years for baseball. Finger pointing doesn’t start or end with him (Cruz) let’s not forget the Assistant AD, both are part of an even bigger problem at that school, hence enrollment is down at the high school (anywhere between 350-400 students)

  6. The question that needs to be asked is whether the St Monica Athletics is better off now than before Mr. Cruz took over as AD three plus years ago. Let’s start with are the teams more or less competitive? Is there a revolving door of coaching changes? If so, why are they leaving. Is the number of participating athletes for each program up or down? Have you gained or lost respect from your peers (other coaches and athletic directors)? Do you empower your coaches or micro-manage them? Is it more important to be right or do what’s right? These are questions that should be asked before you state he’s a welcome addition. Then and only then you’ll realize what’s really going on at St. Monica HS. I’m not surprised they have turned a blind eye on this and many other travesties over the last few years. Save all the crap about the color of the uniforms or not breaking of the rules, they have nothing to do with what’s currently going on. It’s just a poor attempt at changing the narrative with smoke and mirrors. In time, all this will be worked out. The real losers are all the athletes over the last three year plus years.

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