Leading off today:
While a fair chunk of the New York football community is still trying to figure out how the team was able to drop down to Class C this fall, supporters of the Buffalo Bennett football team have launched a racial bias allegation regarding officiating during a loss in the Section 6 final this month.
The Buffalo Parent-Student Athletic Organization filed complaints with Section 6, the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association, the state education commissioner's office and U.S. Department of Education requesting a review of bias and discriminatory officiating, The Buffalo News reported Tuesday. They're also seeking a review of NYSPHSAA policies and practices during a 29-28 loss in overtime to Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake in the championship game.
The Section 6 Athletic Council added the matter to the agenda for Wednesday's meeting. As anyone who's faced similar scrutiny will attest, a potential probe by the U.S. Department of Education qualifies as a major problem, though there's no guarantee its Office for Civil Rights will take any action.
Flanked by parents and other Bennett supporters, Samuel L. Radford III, the president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, said he took the lead in voicing concerns after receiving a call from an upset parent who felt the team wasn't treated fairly by an all-white officiating crew.
"If you feel something is not right, you should have the right at due process," Radford said. "We did review the tape that the parents referenced and saw the situation that the parents were referencing."
Several accounts of the game reported Bennett was penalized 14 times to six for Maple Grove, a difference that left coach Steven McDuffie irate after the game. The call that most angered the Bennett contingent came with Maple Grove driving for the game-tying touchdown that forced overtime, the paper reported. A receiver made a catch over the middle and was quickly hit hard by Marcelus Toliver from the opposite direction. Toliver was flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver to give the Dragons a first down inside the 10.
McDuffie distanced himself from Monday's developments, telling the paper, "I'm moving on to next year. I have no involvement in this."
Buffalo Public Schools AD Aubrey Lloyd and Section 6 President Brent Banker issued statements via email.
"I know firsthand the character of the people that serve Section 6," Lloyd said. "Our district has always been accepted as equal partners at the section level. I have full confidence in the people and that the concerns brought up will be discussed."
Said Banker: "I know that our officials are excellent at what they do."
Robert Zayas, executive director of the state's largest governing body for high school sports, said in an email, "NYSPHSAA is an association of member schools. When and if, a member school brings something to our attention, we will work with the school and their section to address the issue."
Numerically speaking: I alluded above to Bennett's status as a Class C football team with 362 students -- just three short of the team being kept in Class B in 2015. Here's a summary of why that caused more than a few puzzled looks all season:
The football team was a combined program of Bennett (with a listed BEDS number of 234), Olmstead (237) and Alternative High (191). If you apply the NYSPHSAA formula for calculating the enrollment figure for merged programs, you arrive at 362, just under the Class C ceiling.
Here's where the math gets confusing: The New York State Education Department website compiles BEDS data for all the state's public schools. When I did a random check of 10 high schools across the state, there were five instances of the NYSED data exactly matching the BEDS figure on the NYSPHSAA website. The five other schools showed differences of 1, 2, 2, 2 and 4 students between the two data sources.
In addition, the numbers for Olmstead and Alternative were exact matches. However, Bennett's numbers amount to a head-scratcher. The NYSPHSAA lists Bennett's enrollment based on grades 9-11 in October 2015 at 234, but the NYSED site's numbers add up to 264.
The 30-student difference is way out of line with those other schools I checked, and the additional students would have easily kept Bennett in Class B. I always assumed there was some sort recalculation issue that may have been related to Bennett essentially having no freshman class in the building last year, and it more or less became a moot point for the rest of the state once Bennett was eliminated by Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake.