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Tuesday, March 17, 2015: Lancaster drops Redskins nickname in unanimous vote

   Leading off today: Lancaster's school board voted unanimously Monday to drop the district's controversial "Redskins" nickname, citing decisions by three districts this month to cancel upcoming lacrosse games in protest of the moniker and mascot.

   The prospect of more boycotts led the board to call a halt to a lengthy process of exploring options for keeping or discarding the nickname. Administrators had previously said no decision would be made before the end of the current school year, though they had made a concerted effort to make the name and mascot less prominent in recent years.

   The Seneca Nation of Indians had spoken in opposition to the Redskins nickname, but strong community sentiment in opposition to a change was again evident during Monday's 45-minute meeting. Even before the board voted on the resolution, many in the crowd of at least 500 people began shouting and booing the board, The Buffalo News reported. Some stood up and turned their backs to the board as members spoke.

   "We are proud to stand together for what is right," board member Marie MacKay said before voting.

   Once the vote was taken, many in the crowd erupted with applause. Several Native Americans approached Superintendent Michael J. Vallely to thank him.

   "They're going in the right direction. It's a big step," Al Parker, a spokesman for the Tonawanda Seneca Nation, told the newspaper.

   Vallely said there is no timetable yet to select a new mascot and team name and discounted rumors that Redhawks was under consideration. "It will be a student-initiated process," Vallely said.

   The implications of the board's vote could be felt first in the coming days, with the Akron, Lake Shore and Niagara-Wheatfield districts presumably reconsidering their decisions to boycott upcoming non-league lacrosse games. Within the Lancaster district, the annual budget vote in May could be the first indicator of how hard the community's pro-Redskins faction will continue to fight.

   More about the nickname: Lancaster was one of only three school districts in New York still using the Redskins nickname for its teams.

   The most recent decision to change came at Cooperstown, which announced in April 2013 its decision to switch to Hawkeyes following a poll of alumni, staff, students and local residents. The school kept its orange and black colors and received help from the Oneida Indian Nation, which pledged up to $10,000 toward the cost of new sports uniforms.

   With Lancaster having made its decision to end use of a nickname that dated to the 1950s there, the last two New York school districts using Redskins are Oriskany (Section 3) and Canisteo-Greenwood (Section 5).

   Other Native American-linked nicknames remain more common in New York. Our unofficial count Tuesday morning showed five districts using Braves, six calling themselves Chiefs and 37 with the Indians nickname.

   Following up: There were no new developments reported as of early this morning following the death of New Paltz sophomore runner Kyle Brewer, who died Sunday after suffering a heart attack at track and field practice on Sunday.

   Follow this link to our blog from late Monday containing details of the tragedy.

   Strong show of support: More than 200 residents and former players attended Monday's Jamesville-DeWitt school board meeting to show support for boys basketball coach Bob McKenney, who is reportedly being pressured by administrators to quit.

   Nothing related to McKenney's fate was part of the agenda for the regularly scheduled meeting, and President Mark Schulman stated the board would take comments from the public but would not make any decisions Monday. McKenney, who has coached J-D to five NYSPHSAA and two Federation championships, was not in attendance as approximately two dozen speakers rose to praise him.


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  •    Former Red Rams stars Dajuan Coleman and Brandon Triche, who went on to play at Syracuse University, were there.

       "I'm here to talk about my favorite coach," Triche told the board. "For me, it was about off the court. He just allowed me to be myself. He helped me to get out of my shell."

       Another former J-D guard, Alshwan Hymes, who went on to play at Canisius, said McKenney "treated me like a son," and current J-D football coach Eric Ormond called McKenney a role model.

       McKenney has a 378-78 record and eight Section 3 championships at J-D after winning 145 games in Vermont.

       The Alkins situation: The summary in yesterday's blog of Christ the King's victory in the CHSAA boys championship game made only a vague reference to the future of Royals junior Rawle Alkins, one of the most impressive prospects to come out of New York City in a long time.

       Times Ledger reporter Joseph Staszewski's story sheds light on the potential eligibility problem that could force Alkins to play elsewhere next season before heading off to college:

       In short, Christ the King is awaiting definitive word on whether Alkins' participation in varsity basketball as an eighth-grader in Florida would keep him off the roster next year. Alkins enrolled at Christ the King as a freshman.

       "If I end up coming back next year that's great," Alkins said. "Right now I'm just playing like its my last game of high school basketball in New York City."

       Burke responds: John S. Burke Catholic principal John Dolan was critical of Section 9 on Monday and vowed to fight penalties levied on the boys basketball program last week, The Times Herald-Record reported.

       Section 9 hit Burke Catholic with a one-year postseason ban and placed it on three years probation for recruiting on Friday, concluding a 10-month investigation. In a letter on the school website, Dolan said Burke has begun the appeal process.

       "We are deeply disappointed with Friday's ruling for a number of reasons," Dolan wrote. "Among these reasons are the fact that several Section 9 athletic council members participated in the deliberations despite their connection to the five school districts that initiated the allegations of recruiting violations against us."

       Section 9 Executive Director Bob Thabet said the 17-member athletic council's decision to sanction Burke Catholic was unanimous.

       Dolan said he believed Burke's response to the allegations did not receive proper consideration.

       Quick thought: There was not a tackle made, a goal scored, a ball hit or a race run, yet the past 24-hour period has been the most news-packed day for New York high school sports in a very long time.

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