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Monday, June 1, 2015: Burke Catholic's postseason ban rescinded

   Leading off today: Though the remainder of the punishment remains intact, Burke Catholic has successfully appealed to have its one-year ban on postseason competition rescinded.

   A three-person appeals panel that reviewed documents and heard presentations May 14 voted to remove the ban, it was disclosed Sunday. Eileen Troy, past president of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association; and Ed Stores and Carl Normandin, executive directors of Sections 5 and 10, respectively; were unanimous in their decision.

   Burke Catholic was hit with penalties and a "severe censure" in mid-March following allegations of recruiting violations, primarily by an assistant basketball coach. The case had its origin in an investigation by a private law firm retained by five area public school districts. That report was handed over to Section 9, triggering that organization's separate investigation.

   Stores said the appeals panel was concerned that the two investigators' reports produced conflicting accounts from the same witnesses.

   "The panel felt that instead of solid affidavits you can hang your hat on, they were statements that were contradicted," Stores said. "Of the people interviewed (originally), the Section 9 investigator couldn't reach some of them and some others recanted.

   "We looked and said we don't really have enough to justify that ... It came down to a lot of hearsay."

   Burke Catholic were pleased by the appeals outcome.

   "Over the past year, we have always maintained that any unbiased examination of our athletic or educational programs would only reinforce that the school maintains a high level of integrity and character in our athletic programs," the school said in a statement posted to its website.

   "Burke Catholic High School remains a dedicated member of the New York Public High School Athletic Association," the statement continued. "We have, and will continue to, fully uphold its bylaws. In addition, we will continue our self-imposed policy of prohibiting coaches to also coach club sports teams and recommend all Section IX schools follow Burke's lead and voluntarily prohibit the same conduct in their schools."

   The Goshen school is still subject to three years of probation beginning July 1 and will be required to report to Section 9 on the admission of students playing boys basketball and financial assistance given to them. Burke Catholic also must develop institutional controls over assistance to students by outside individuals intended to attract transfers.

   In addition, Burke must train all its coaches on NYSPHSAA regulations on recruitment and undue influence.

   Middletown Superintendent Kenneth Eastwood, whose district undertook the original nine-month investigation of Burke at a reported cost of $18,493.25 that led to the sanctions, remained critical of the school.

   "It had been our hope in filing the complaint that Burke would look inward, acknowledge its violation and work closely with Section IX to prevent further violations by their staff," he said in a statement to The Times Herald-Record. "Unfortunately, they chose instead to make unbecoming personal attacks against the complainants and to try to hide behind procedural loopholes. This tactic, which sends the wrong message to students in terms of taking responsibility, unnecessarily extended the process and forced unnecessary legal fees for all concerned."

   On his way to L.A.: Aquinas quarterback Jake Zembiec has been invited to participate this weekend in the Elite 11 Quarterback Campetition semifinals in Los Angeles.

   The Nike camp/competition showcases QBs in the Class of 2016, and this weekend's top performers will advance to the Elite 11 Finals from July 5-11 at Nike's Beaverton, Ore., headquarters. The full list of invitees had not been released as of late Monday.

   Notable Elite 11 alumni include Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Matt Leinart, Andrew Luck, Carson Palmer, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow and Jameis Winston.

   Zembiec, the NYSSWA's 2013 Class AA player of the year, is a Penn State commit.


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  •    Golf championships: Scarsdale senior James Nicholas shot an even-par 71 in the final round to win the NYSPHSAA state championship by one shot on Monday in Ithaca.

       Nicholas' 75-71--146 beat New Hartford junior Alec Bard, a first-round co-leader, by one stroke on Cornell University's Robert Trent Jones Golf Course.

       Nicholas, a football and hockey standout who'll attend Yale in the fall, is Section 1's first state champion since Ardsley's Michael Quagliano in 2004. After moving into the lead Monday, Nicholas birdied the 16th hole to move two shots in front with two to play. He parred 17 and bogeyed the par-5 18th.

       D.J. Griffiths of Susquehanna Valley placed third, two shots behind Nicholas. There was a three-way tie for fourth between Nolan Ditcher (Randolph), Evan Gaesser (Kendall) and Bobby Davenport (West Canada Valley) at 149.

       Stern punishment: The Minnesota State High School League approved one-year suspensions of dance team head coaches from five schools over protest activities at the state tournament in February. Coaches at a sixth school cited by the MSHSL have since left their program.

       The board heard from 17 speakers, including administrators and coaches from Chaska, Eastview, Lakeville South and Wayzata who raised complaints about due process during the investigation.

       The league's executive/eligibility committee voted 9-1 for the one-year suspension in an earlier meeting Monday and presented the proposal to the board. The proposal also stipulated a letter of censure to each program's activities director.

       According to the Star-Tribune, coaches and dancers were upset by Faribault's Class 3A title-winning routine, which had drawn complaints for plagiarism before the tournament. League officials had determined that the routine did not violate its rules, but girls from the five other teams stood off to the side of the Target Center floor holding hands in protest during the award ceremony.

       Five coaches from the Eden Prairie team, also involved in the protest, "made the decision not to continue on in their coaching roles," school district spokeswoman Jaclyn Swords said in April. Their departures were not the result of disciplinary action, she said.

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