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Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012: Illinois eligibility case attracting attention

   Leading off today: The Illinois High School Association board will listen to arguments Monday regarding the eligibility of four athletes from one small school not far from Chicago. Though their eventual ruling will carry no weight outside that state -- and may be struck down in the legal system -- plenty of people across the country will be watching.

   It comes down to a classic case of deciding whether the teens from war-ravaged Sudan should be allowed to make the most of their move to the land of opportunity or if perhaps someone else is trying to be opportunistic at their expense.

   Administrators at Mooseheart High School, a privately funded school 35 miles west of Chicago, say they accepted the students as part of a tradition of helping. But the Associated Press reported that the executive director of IHSA has ruled the school broke a prohibition on high school recruiting when it accepted three basketball players and a distance runner from A-HOPE, an Indiana-based foundation that paid for the athletes to come to the United States. The ruling came after the basketball coach from another school complained.

   It doesn't help the school's case that A-HOPE founder Mark Adams has previously found himself in NCAA cross-hairs. Last month, the NCAA suspended two Indiana University freshmen for nine games and required them to repay a part of the impermissible benefits they received from Adams, including plane tickets, housing and clothing. The NCAA classified Adams as an IU booster because he once donated $185 to a university sports club.

   Mooseheart's appeal of the preliminary ruling allowed 6-foot-7-inch Mangisto Deng, 6-8 Makur Puou and 7-foot Akim Nyang to continue playing for the moment, and the team is 3-3. But the four athletes, all juniors, face uncertain futures because of the potential impact if they're banned from high school sports. Mooseheart administrator Scott Hart said the players have attracted some interest from mid-major colleges such as Wichita State and Indiana State.

   "We don't have family here. Nobody's going to pay for our college," Deng told the AP. "That's why we're working hard in the sport so we can go to college and pay for our scholarships."

   Deng and Puou said they want to be businessmen when they return to Sudan. Nyang said he wants to be an engineer, and runner Wal Khat said he wants to be a pilot.

   "When we leave Mooseheart, we need something for support ... No one will pay for you," Khat said.

   All-state soccer: Remsen senior forward Erin O'Connor earned first-team all-state honors for the third straight season, capping her career with selection as the New York Class D soccer player of the year.

   The New York State Sportswriters and Coaches Organization for Girls Sports released its all-state team, players of the year and coaches of the year Sunday evening.

   Niskayuna's Meghan Doyle and Washingtonville's Alana O'Neill, both juniors, shared the Class AA player of the year.

   Class A also had co-recipients -- junior Christina Klaum (Rockville Centre South Side) and senior Morgan Santoro (Islip). Both repeated as first-team selections.

   Greece Odyssey senior midfielder Emily Tucker was selected the Class B player of the year, and Class C honors went to Hoosick Falls senior forward Grace DeLurey.

The full list of all-star selections can be found here.

   Playoff format change? Section 9's football committee is discussing expanding the Class AA playoffs from four to eight teams beginning in 2014, the Times Herald-Record reported last week.

   Currently, the top two teams in Class AA Division I and Division II, each containing five schools, qualify for the semifinals. However, no Division II team has ever won the championship, suggesting that third- and even fourth-place


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finishers in Division I might have a better case for being selected to advance most seasons.

   "I think the way it's gone the past few years, our third-place team (in Division I) could have beaten Division II's teams in the playoffs. We beat Minisink Valley this year and could very well have beaten Warwick in the playoffs," Newburgh coach Bill Bianco said, referring to the Goldbacks' 28-27 loss to Warwick to open the season. "I don't know if eight teams is perfect, but it ensures that quality teams aren't going to be left out."

   The Section 9 football committee will meet after the holidays to discuss the eight-team playoff. Approval would also be needed from the Section 9 athletic council.

   A league of their own: The PSAL will launch the state's first high school wrestling league for girls in March, The New York Daily News reported. The plan calls for a 16-team league competing in dual meets followed by an individual city championship tournament.

   Ken Bigley, director of program development at Beat the Streets, which has been running a youth program in the sport, said the list of participating schools is forthcoming, perhaps as early as this week. Curtis AD Eric Ritzer says his school can fill out a roster of 15-20 girls if selected to participate.

   Recognition for Farnsworth: Former Spencerport boys coach Jeff Farnsworth will receive the Robert W. Robinson Long Term Service Award at next month's National Soccer Coaches Association of America convention.

   Farnsworth served as the NSCAA Awards manager and chair of the Awards Committee from 1992 to 2012 and has been inducted into the New York State High School Soccer Hall of Fame.

   He will be recognized Jan. 18 in Indianapolis.

   NIAAA honoring Fries: Former Irondequoit AD and past Section 5 president Denny Fries will receive the Award of Merit, the honest honor bestowed by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, on Dec. 18 in San Antonio.

   The NIAAA board of directors selects one recipient each year who has shown outstanding leadership in interscholastic athletics or related areas.    Fries retired from Irondequoit in 2006 after 39 years as a teacher, coach and administrator. He became the interim AD at Churchville-Chili last school year and remains involved in Section 5, league and statewide programs including concussion management.

   A bit over the top? I'm all for merged teams as a way for two small districts to field a team in a sport they could not support independently. And it's also a good way to help a struggling school lay the groundwork for rebuilding and eventually going solo again.

   What's taking place in Section 3 hockey this winter, though, seems to be a monument to excess. The former Corcoran High team is now known simply as the Syracuse Cougars as the school has taken in players from eight other schools, The Post-Standard reported.

   As of last week, the 32-man roster consisted of players from Corcoran (7), Westhill (12), Solvay (3), Marcellus (2), Onondaga (2), Bishop Ludden (2), Lafayette (1), Henninger (1), Jordan-Elbridge (1) and Fabius-Pompey (1).

   The team is off to a 2-0-1 start, including a 2-1 victory Saturday over an Ithaca squad that had started the season by reeling off four straight wins.

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