Leading off today:
Perhaps the Cicero-North Syracuse school board opted to leave the smoking gun in its holster rather than go public -- whether directly or via a well-placed leak to the media -- with something substantive that would justify its action.
In that scenario, there might have been real cause to fire one of the most successful high school coaches in Section 3 history in any sport.
But if all the board and district administrators have in the way of a case against Kerry Bennett is what surfaced Saturday in a report in The Post-Standard, then their decision rates somewhere between disappointing and absurd.
Bennett, 65, the winner of four New York State Public High School Athletic Association softball championships as well as more than 600 games in a 30-year career, told the paper he was informed Thursday that he would not be reappointed to the position as the “result of an investigation” but was given no details.
If there is nothing else to the story, then the impetus appears to be a complaint by the father of a star player that his daughter was bullied after leaving the team hours before the state final last June to attend her senior prom. Brittany Paul, who hit .487 and drove in 21 runs during the season, played in the Northstars’ 2-1 victory over Valley Central in a morning semifinal, then left before the a 3-1 loss to Clarence in the championship game the same day in Queensbury.
According to the paper, Jeff Paul did not name those he suspected of bullying first baseman Brittany Paul, but he said coach Kerry Bennett was aware of the hostilities and did nothing. “He created the environment that Brittany was forced to live in,” he said July 9 in a presentation to the school board according to the paper.
At that meeting, Brittany and her father said she had been subjected to verbal harassment, bullying and defamation of character. Jeff Paul said his daughter's car was vandalized while it was parked at a friend’s house,
Brittany was sent disparaging texts and the senior was mocked at a team banquet, which she did not attend. A team poster with her face obscured was distributed, the paper reported.
In addition, Jeff Paul said Brittany's character was attacked in a letter to the softball coach at Lafayette College, where she will attend school in the fall.
“To think that he or someone under his directive could go as far as to send a false, anonymous letter is outrageous,” Jeff Paul said. “To try to hurt her going forward in college is just unacceptable.”
Bennett, who is retired, denied wrongdoing and told the paper he’ll pursue legal options.
The Post-Standard story goes into additional detail, but none of it explains away what bugs me most: With the possible -- emphasis on that word, please -- exception of the altered photo, there is nothing in any of cited allegations that can be pinned on Bennett or anyone acting on his behalf. And even the photo episode is a reach; I believe the majority of people who've ever played team sports would agree Brittany took herself of the picture in a figurative sense by abandoning the team immediately before the final.
Even if the alleged mischief was the act of Paul's teammates, Bennett's oversight of them ended for all practical purposes once the team arrived home from Queensbury. Even during the season there are logical limits as to what a coach can be expected to control when it comes to player behavior. Sure, he'd have a responsibility to mete out punishment for violations of