Sep 21, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
About 50 community members — residents, parents, coaches, teachers, students — attended the Sept. 20 Skaneateles School Board meeting in hopes of hearing some news about the district’s investigation into allegations of illegal recruiting and false residency concerning a handful of high school football players.
They were not disappointed.
School board president Evan Dreyfuss began the public comment period of the meeting with a brief address concerning the “current events” surrounding the high school football program.
“This board and this administration has not targeted any sports program at all. That is the furthest thing from the truth. We need to be clear that this board has tried from the beginning to be very forthright and completely transparent. This is something we did not take upon ourselves. We were contacted in writing by the New York State [Public High School] Athletic Association and by Section III,” Dreyfuss said.
“I wish we could tell you more, but this is a personnel matter and it involves students and we must protect them,” he said.
In response to a specific question by resident Wendy Ward, Dreyfuss said the allegations that certain football players were illegally recruited by Coach Tim Green started at the end of the 2010-11 school year, at which time an investigation was launched. That investigation has been ongoing since then.
That investigation includes accusations that certain student athletes also were attending the school without being district residents. While the residency issues were not part of the NYSPHSAA and Section III written inquiries, they are still serious allegations that the district is investigating on its own.
District Superintendent Phil D’Angelo said there are typically three to five non-residency investigations in Skaneateles every year. Currently there are eight ongoing, with less than half concerning football players, D’Angelo said.
Many residents said they felt the accusations were the result of bitterness and sour grapes by people who opposed Green’s hiring as coach, and that the new players are nothing more than students (and parents) entering the district to avail themselves of the rare chance to be coached by a former NFL player.
Resident Patty Lindgren said the issue seemed to be mostly gossip and rumors and heatedly asked the board, “how long do you listen to hearsay before you say enough?”
Dreyfuss said the investigation is about “specific allegations based on facts,” and later called them “pretty serious facts” that the district was compelled to investigate.
He also said that the NYSPHSAA and Section III issue was a recruiting issue and not a residency issue — or as everyone at the meeting said many times: it’s about the adults and not about the kids.
As the meeting — which lasted about 45 minutes — continued, audience members raised concerns about the cost to the district of the investigation, the projected conclusion date of the investigation, and the stress and mental toll this was taking on the entire football team and other students.
Also broached was the issue of race, since three of the four football players involved are African American, and Skaneateles is a district with historically low numbers of minority students.
Board member Kate Coggswell said of the race issue, “That is offensive, I think, to everybody.”
Resident Nancy Lewis said, “To turn this [issue] into one of race — now I’m getting angry.”
Dreyfuss said the board had expected to resolve the recruiting investigation by about Monday, Sept. 19, but new facts were brought out two days previous that necessitated further investigation.
He said the board hopes to resolve the issue this week. “We don’t want this to carry on any longer than is necessary — it’s divisive, it’s distracting,” he said.
D’Angelo said it is not only Skaneateles residents who have made allegations of wrongdoing, but people in other CNY football programs as well. His fear, he added, is that new allegations will continue to come out despite the district’s closing of the investigation — especially since the team is now 3-0 and ranked fifth in the state.
“The better our team does, the more people come out of the woodwork to report,” he said. “Anyone with information should have come forward by now, but this is the concern I have. The more comprehensive our report, the better it will sit with Section III.”
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.