HIGH SCHOOLS – The appeal from Christian Brothers Academy football program to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association regarding its one-game suspension and three-year probationary period from a Section II ruling in late January has been rejected.
Section II executive director Ed Dopp confirmed that on March 7, the appeal was heard by NYSPHSAA and the Section II decision affirmed.
The probationary period and loss of a Week 0 regulation football contest stems from an allegation of recruitment and undue influence by the football team. CBA President Dr. James Schlegel then reported the violation on Nov. 8, 2022, in a letter to Section II as reported by The Daily Gazette.
“There’s a lot of gray area there,” CBA football coach Bob Burns said, by telephone, previously to The Daily Gazette. “One of my lower-level coaches reached out to a guy that he was friends with, was an acquaintance of, and he had asked the guy if he was interested in possibly sending his kid to CBA. And the assumption was that, because my lower-level coach was a coach at CBA, that it had to do with football. I think it got misconstrued that way. I’m a little bit confused at the fact that if someone reaches out to someone and says, ‘Hey, are you interested in sending your kid to CBA?’ how is that recruiting?”
Both CBA athletic director Blaine Drescher and Burns said their fight against the ruling is not over.
“I wouldn’t say that the case is closed by any means, but NYSPHSAA did rule in favor of Section II,” Drescher said in a telephone Wednesday. “Since the case isn’t over, I really can’t comment on specifics at this time.”
Both CBA officials confirmed that the football team will be able to compete in Week 0, but only in a scrimmage capacity.
“I already have a game lined up for Week 0 with a very good opponent,” Burns said, confirming that the opponent will be outside of Section II. “I’ve discussed it with him, so he understands the circumstances of whether or not we’re going to play a scrimmage. If there’s a possibility that we win the appeal, then we’re going to play a game.”
As part of the probationary process, CBA must submit a professional development plan to the Section II Executive Committee that lists its plan for educating its coaches, staff and employees on the state’s recruitment and undue influence rule.
The requirement of creating an educational plan for his staff has Drescher perplexed.
“I’m supposed to provide professional development over recruiting to my coaches, and there is not another curriculum across the state of New York [available],” Drescher said. “I sat down with Ed Dopp to try to make a curriculum, and while I thought that was a productive meeting, I do wish we had more guidance and direction from NYSPHSAA since NYSPHSAA and Section II want to make this rule a point of emphasis.”
In its agenda minutes from January, Section II’s executive committee considered past incidents by CBA when determining the proposal for probation. The school self-reported a violation of the state’s transfer rule standard in 2015. It was censured for that. Then it violated the recruitment and undue influence rule in 2019, and was censured for that. At that time, Section II recommended that CBA provide professional development on the rule to all its coaches. In 2021, Section II investigated CBA over the recruitment and undue influence rule and found no violation, but expressed “serious concerns.”
The penalty to the football team for a self-reported violation after a previous soccer violation irks Burns.
“We have two violations in four years or something like that, right?” Burns said. “One was soccer and one was football, but the punishment goes directly to the football team. Gee, I wonder why? I wasn’t even around for the last [soccer] violation.”
CBA won its second consecutive Section II Class AA football title this past season and reached the state semifinals.
“In this day and age, a lot of parents are making decisions about where they can send their kid based upon athletic success,” Burns said. “There’s no question. Anybody that doesn’t believe that is crazy.
“They want to give their kids the best possible high school athletic experience that they can. OK, so we’ve got something special going on at CBA. Kids want to be part of something special. Parents want their kids to be part of something special, too.”
Drescher cautioned that the CBA penalty could be a warning to other programs.
“If we’re cracking down on this rule and making it a point of emphasis, I just hope we have the guidance and direction to look at it across the board, not just at one school,” Drescher said. “I am hoping NYSPHSAA takes the time to take a closer look at this rule and be able to provide insight for scenarios and questions that are going on across the section and the state, public and private on a daily basis.”
Burns echoed that sentiment fearing that CBA may be a target of additional accusations.
“If they’re putting us on probation and they say that we have another violation, that there’s going to be a more severe punishment then there needs to be a more detailed explanation of this rule,” Burns said. “I believe the rule is so broad that you can pick a lot of questionable situations that would fit into this.”
Reach sportswriter Stan Hudy at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @StanHudy.
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