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Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015: Sec. 2's Suburban Council taking in four more schools

   Leading off today: I apologize for falling behind on some rather significant news from around the state the past several days. I seem to have gotten distracted by the story of the Seattle canine that has learned how to take a bus to the local dog park.

   Here's the link if you haven't seen the story yet.

   And we now return you to our regularly scheduled programming ...

   Section 2's new landscape: The demise of the Big 10 high school conference last spring created uncertainty in Section 2. We now have some clarity: The Times Union reported over the weekend that the 12-school Suburban Council has accepted Albany, CBA, Schenectady and Troy as associate members next fall as a step toward presumed full membership.

   Meanwhile, former Big 10 schools Catholic Central and LaSalle Institute will join the Colonial Council in 2015-16. The paper also reported it appears Bishop Gibbons will move to the Western Athletic Conference and Bishop Maginn has not decided its path. Amsterdam's announced move to the Foothills Conference last spring had been the domino that ultimately toppled the Big 10, which was formed in 1977.

   The Suburban Council already consisted of a formidable lineup: Averill Park, Ballston Spa, Bethlehem, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Colonie, Columbia, Guilderland, Mohonasen, Niskayuna, Saratoga, Shaker and Shenendehowa. Though the four new members bring with them some challenges -- they typically compete in fewer sports and don't have a full modified and JV structure -- the 16-school league will be as deep as just about any upstate conference.

   "I think it is going to increase competition in a lot of sports across the board," Shenendehowa AD Chris Culnan told the paper. "I think it was kind of inevitable that these four schools were going to land in our league."

   More than anything else, being able to join the Suburban Council or Colonial Council brings stability to the Big 10 refugees. Scheduling goes from hit-and-miss this school year to virtually no worries in the fall.

   "To know you are going to have your league games, and a few non-league games, is tremendous," Troy boys basketball coach Rich Hurley said. "We now don't have to worry about chasing down so many games like we did this year."

   In the Colonial Council, CCHS and LaSalle will be joining Albany Academy, Cohoes, Cobleskill, Fonda, Ichabod Crane, Lansingburgh, Ravena, Schalmont, Voorheesville and Watervliet.

   More shuffling? Granville's school board has approved a motion to apply for admission to the Adirondack League -- a more logical geographic fit for the school and better from a competitive standpoint. ADs from the Adirondack League have already been approached, but it's up to superintendents to make the decision, The Post-Star reported.

   Granville would become one of two Class B programs in what is primarily a small-school league, but the district struggles to be competitive in the Wasaren League in most sports. Matt Hicks, who coaches JV basketball, made a presentation to the Granville school board pointing out the volleyball, boys soccer and girls soccer teams went winless vs. Wasaren League opponents in the fall. Granville teams were 0-50 against league competition before Friday's wins in wrestling and boys basketball, and the school suffers from a lagging participation rate.

   "We would get competitive games with more rivals, which would generate interest within the community, interest within the kids," Hicks said. "Hopefully that would be a reason why more kids would participate. Not the only reason, but part of it."

   Support for Groton coaches: J.D. Pabis' first Groton school board meeting as interim superintendent was about as rugged as expected. The Ithaca Journal reported Monday's session saw strong criticism related to the recent ouster of the football staff.

   Head coach Jeff Lewis and his staff were dismissed, and Pabis, a former Groton administrator, took the helm of district operations following the resignation of Superintendent James Abrams last week. Abrams resigned after a board of education meeting Jan. 2 in which the board voted to enlist the help of Tompkins-Seneca-Tioga BOCES in managing the district.

   Abrams and other school officials were criticized after members of the varsity football team allegedly engaged in a hazing incident. According to the paper, Groton police reports document an assault in which a freshman player was held down by one upperclassman while another rubbed his genitals on the victim's face.

   The school leadership has been a hot-button community

  
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issue since that incident Sept. 10 at the high school. Around 75 people attended Monday's school board meeting and many spoke in support of Lewis, assistant coach Bobby Brull and two volunteer assistants. Some credited Lewis for his character and attitude, also alleging the board used the coaches' dismissal as a way to shift blame for the hazing incident away from the accused students.

   Union Springs contro-versy: If you thought the sudden decision late last month to fold the Union Springs boys basketball varsity was a little suspicious, you were right. Some of the details were aired at Monday's school board meeting of the community on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, The Citizen in Auburn reported.

   Several players revolted against coach Jim Karcz before the team's scheduled appearance in the Cayuga County Holiday Tournament, turning in their uniforms after a 1-6 start. But school administrators stood behind Karcz and opted to end the season rather than cave in to players and parents.

   Four of the protesting players asked the school board on Monday to "look into" Karcz's leadership, each reading part of a prepared statement. Players and parents questioned Karcz's preparation of the team in the preseason and the decision to hold a player out of the first quarter of a Dec. 22 loss to Trumansburg over a missed practice.

   Following the community comments portion of the meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss the employment history of an unspecified person. When the board emerged from that meeting, president Mary Seitz said someone would respond directly to the players' families.

   Coming off a winless first season, Karcz was expecting more from his team but says he knew going in that Union Springs would not be a contender.

   "I didn't think we'd win 15 games, but I had expectations that the kids would show up and work hard," he told the paper. "I guess we didn't see eye to eye."

   Karcz said he had difficulty getting the upperclassmen to buy into his philosophy and relatively low-key style. He said he opted to slow the pace of preseason preparations because several players were coming off a trip to the state Class B soccer quarterfinals -- a not uncommon approach by coaches facing a similar situation.

   As losses mounted early in the season, Karcz said, several players started missing practices, citing school work and other activities. Karcz said several of the players' parents did not think missing practice was a big deal.

   "Some of the kids gave up when their backs were against the wall," he said. "I gave a commitment and I went through with it. They just needed to come along for the ride with me on this one."

   More later: I'll follow up later today with some highlights of big games from Wednesday and a few other leftover tidbits.


  
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