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Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016: Let me introduce you to the ugliness of D-I sports

   Leading off today: I hate to say it, but I saw this one coming a mile away. (See: Dec. 11, 2015 blog)

   Aquinas linebacker Taylor Riggins posted to Twitter on Tuesday that he has decommitted from Syracuse University and re-opened his recruitment. The fashion in which he did it -- tweeting a thank you to Scott Shafer's staff and wishing Syracuse well -- was significantly more classy than the way the new Orange football staff handled relations with Riggins and his family since the recent regime change.

   Syracuse.com reported Riggins was the 10th player to decommit from the Orange since Dino Babers replaced Shafer as head coach. Of the 10, only one (quarterback Lindsey Scott) seems to have been actively wooed by Babers' staff. Based on how long it took Babers' people to reach out to others, it's pretty obvious the staff was taking a time-honored tradition -- running scholarship players off the team -- to a new level by dumping them before they had even arrived.

   Riggins, rated two or three stars by the various recruiting services, was up against it on two fronts -- the coaching change and his early-season knee injury that sidelined him for the second half of Aquinas' march to the NYSPHSAA Class AA championship and left the new coaches with little film upon which to evaluate him. He'd committed to SU last summer after his film and an appearance at the Orange camp impressed Shafer's assistants (read Shafer's letter to Riggins here, per Scout.com), but that largely closed the door to the possibility of more offers; the University at Buffalo and other MAC school obviously weren't going to expend energy working on a kid who'd already landed a spot in the ACC.

   Elgin Riggins told Syracuse.com the new coaches all but ignored his son even after Orange AD Mark Coyle called the family to guarantee the scholarship offer would be honored. But Riggins was left hanging after Babers' hiring, with no contact for several weeks until two defensive assistants intimated the prospect was no longer in their plans.

   The Riggins were then contacted by a coach again early this month and told SU was "prepared to move on." He was encouraged to decommit, which would alert other schools to his availability but also keep SU from taking the public-relations hit.

   UMass has stepped up with an offer, the website reported, and other interest may materialize.

   My take: I've tweeted it a couple of times and now I'll blog it: Syracuse was dumb to not so much as approach state Class AA co-player of the year Earnest Edwards, an Aquinas senior who committed to Maine the other day.

   The Orange were under no obligation to offer Edwards a scholarship, but the kid scored a combined eight TDs in a variety of fashions -- kickoff return, fumble recovery, interception return and several explosive catch-and-runs -- in the first half of two games at the Carrier Dome last fall. For that alone he was entitled to a brief handwritten note from an assistant to say congratulations and to thank the Aquinas staff for re-sending Edwards' highlight video the day after Babers was hired. It's called common courtesy and good public relations.

   Instead, it's pretty apparent they fell into the trap of being scared off by Edwards' size. In the era of high-tech passing games, it makes sense the Orange want their WRs to be both fast and big. But this news just in: Syracuse has sucked in football since the last few years of the Paul Pasqualoni Era, so they don't get first, second or third crack at the kids that are big and fast. Those kids go to Ohio State, LSU and about 40 other schools before they give Central New York the time of day.

   So SU dropped the ball with Edwards, who's in the 5-10 or 5-11 range, and then doubled down on dissing New York high school football by dumping Riggins, his classmate at Aquinas.

   I just have to wonder, though, if anyone in the Syracuse football office has worked there long enough to remember a New Jersey kid by the name of Quinton Spotwood, as explosive a kick returner and receiver as you could ever imagine. Spotwood's career got off to a great start but he got all but forgotten by Pasqualoni's staff while rehabbing after blowing out a knee. He was never the same after the injury, but he didn't deserve the cold shoulder he got during rehab.

   Even though the commercial Internet was in its infancy at that time, word of how Spotwood was being disrespected made its way back to New Jersey pretty quickly. Not long afterward, high school coaches from a wide swath of New Jersey stopped returning phone calls from the SU football office -- including offensive coordinator George DeLeone, who routinely plucked great players out of the Garden State up until then.

   Babers would do well to remember that the Aquinas class of 2016 includes Jake Zembiec (Penn State), Jamir Jones (Notre Dame) and long-snapper Conrad Brake (Pittsburgh). Odds are the school is going to have a prospect or two down the road that SU might need. If he phones regarding a kid already holding an offer from Boston College or West Virginia, will that call get returned?

   Final thoughts: (1) You can make the case that it's better that SU broke off the relationship now rather letting him waste a year there before transferring. That doesn't allow for the possibility, though, that maybe Riggins could have shown up on campus and turned some heads in the fall.

   (2) I hope parents of talented young athletes are taking note of the Riggins situation, because the commitment that their ninth- or 10th-grade lacrosse player makes for a 20 or 30 percent scholarship is even more disposable than the quarter of a million dollar covenant SU just broke.

   (3) If the website report about Coyle's pledge to recruits is accurate, then one has to wonder what he's been doing while so many of Shafer's guys have been decommitting (wink, wink).

   (4) Scholarship offers are non-binding until they're backed up with signatures on National Letter of Intent day. Presumably, men's basketball assistant Mike Hopkins has his status as head-coach-in-waiting written into a contract that cannot be discarded quite so easily.

   Speaking of Hopkins: The SU assistant was spotted taking in Tuesday's game between McQuaid and Bishop Kearney in which 6-foot-7 McQuaid freshman Isaiah Stewart finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds.

   Stewart told CuseNation.com last week that Arizona, Georgetown, Ohio State, Stanford, Syracuse and Virginia have all shown interest.

   Hockey: Cole Moore scored 4:15 into the third period to give Canton the lead for good in a 6-4 boys victory over Massena on Wednesday in their first Northern Athletic Conference Division I matchup of the season.

  
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   Canton is ranked third and Massena sixth in Division I this week by the New York State Sportswriters Association.

   The game featured three-goal outbursts by each team in the second period. Canton went from a 1-0 deficit to a 3-1 lead, started by Moore's first goal, before falling behind again by a goal.

   "It was just a great game between two hard-working teams," Canton coach Randy Brown said. "Until the final buzzer sounds in a game like that you are never comfortable. It rang several minutes ago and I'm still not comfortable."

   Girls basketball: Bishop Loughlin held Staten Island Academy to two fourth-quarter field goals and went on an 8-0 run that sealed a 53-45 non-league victory.

   It was the second straight loss for Staten island Academy, which dropped a 54-51 decision to Frances Lewis on Monday.

   Loughlin is ranked 21st and Francis Lewis 15th in the state in Class AA. Staten Island Academy is No. 3 in Class A.

   Why's this even an issue? The tournament director of last weekend's MLK Classic in Erie, Pa., has awarded Aquinas a forfeit victory in the final over Park School, the Buffalo power ranked No. 1 in the state in Class A.

   The issue stems from a Park administrator instructing his team to return home during the day rather than playing the game that was to tip off at 8 p.m. because of a weather forecast calling for significant snow and possible whiteout driving conditions.

   The extent of communication between the schools and officials isn't clear, but tournament director Michael Anderson told The Buffalo News he gave Aquinas permission to leave, but not Park.

   "As the tournament director only I can cancel the game. I would only do so if all parties agreed to it and officially we would have ruled it a postponement," Anderson said. Park "made the decision themselves not play and left without any consultation with me or (Aquinas) Coach (Mike) Grosodonia. Forfeit victory Rochester Aquinas."

   Though the forfeit officially ends a 17-game winning streak, it's inconsequential at best since the teams have a game scheduled on Feb. 8 in Rochester anyway.

   One curious point from the story: Park traveled to the tournament in a caravan of cars rather than by bus. If I was an athletic director, principal or school boss, I'd be a nervous wreck about sending a team on the road like that. I could only imagine the implications for insurance coverage (and the ensuing rate hikes for renewal) had there been an accident.

   I'll say this, though: I firmly believe that safety was the sole concern for the Park folks because I'd much rather have played Aquinas last weekend while two-sport all-stater Earnest Edwards was making his recruiting visit to Maine.

   He's had enough: Baldwinsville girls lacrosse coach Doug Rowe says the upcoming season will be his last. Rowe is retiring as a middle school gym teacher in June and will wrap up his coaching career, too.

   Rowe is entering his 26th season with a 355-114 record and one state title.    "A lot of mixed feelings, but I think it's time," Rowe, 59, told Syracuse.com. "The world's changing, and I'm not sure being an old man that I'm changing with it. I'm not sure that's a good thing. There's a lot to it. But I don't want to go into it."

   Rowe said a new genre of parents exists -- one that sees lacrosse as a path to scholarship money. These parents, Rowe said, at times question the very nature of the way he runs the program itself.

   "I just see the handwriting on the wall," he said. "I talked to the district. We both agreed that it's time."

   Tribute: Former newspaper reporter Jeff Mallaber, now a lawyer and a witty Facebook guy, wrote a very nice tribute to James Dollard. The former Honeoye Falls-Lima principal and Section 5 president in the mid-1980s, died Wednesday.

   "No man I've ever met was more clearly placed on this planet to educate children," Mallaber wrote. "A prominent figure in Section V athletics, he was instrumental in making me understand that being involved in sports didn't necessarily mean that you had to be ignorant. He challenged you, and it began with listening. He heard what you had to say, and then he required you to reason it out, support it with facts, and stand up to some scrutiny."

   Later, he wrote: "Take away all the pomp and circumstance that necessarily attend the passing of a prominent person, and you are left with something as basic as this. Jim Dollard believed in you. It's hard to give up on yourself when you know that someone like him feels that way."


  
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