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Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016: Canisius' Trueheart heading for Hofstra

   Leading off today: Here's another cautionary tale about prospective college athletes and schools that change coaches before a recruit has signed his scholarship papers.

   Early this year I wrote about Aquinas linebacker Taylor Riggins, who went from early commit to Scott Shafer at Syracuse to persona non grata after the Orange made a coaching change at the end of last football season. With his scholarship offer withdrawn, Riggins had to scramble shortly ahead of National Letter of Intent day before landing at UMass.

   And now we have the scramble experienced by the New York State Sportswriters Association's co-player of the year in Class A basketball. The Buffalo News reported Wednesday that Stafford Trueheart, a 6-foot-8 forward from Canisius, has accepted a scholarship to Hofstra after being left in limbo by a coaching change at James Madison.

   Trueheart, who led the Crusaders to a 26-win season by averaging 20.8 points and 10.5 rebounds, had announced in May that he would play for James Madison. But Trueheart's relationship with JMU had been with Matt Brady's staff, which was left go at the end of March. As soon as the Western New York senior said he'd head to the Virginia school, new coach Louis Rowe's staff made it known to the media that Trueheart not only didn't have a scholarship awaiting him but that he'd have to compete for so much as a walk-on spot on the roster.

   "I'm not sure what exactly went on but with the new coach the roster was messed up so I moved on," Trueheart told the paper.

   Fortunately for Trueheart, several mid-majors in the Northeast that still had open scholarships were familiar with him. He made an official visit to Hofstra, coached by ex-Niagara bench boss Joe Mihalich.

   "He had other opportunities but between him and his family and I agree with him Hofstra is going to be a great fit," Canisius coach Kyle Husband said. "Joe Mihalich is a great coach."

   So, in the end Trueheart still lands at the same level -- JMU and Hofstra both play in the Colonial Athletic Association -- but not before some anxious moments.

   Quick thought: Perhaps the scariest aspect of the Trueheart situation as far as future college prospects are concerned is that there was really no indication that the JMU situation could blow up.

   Though his record over eight seasons after arriving from Marist was 118-116, Brady's final two Dukes teams had gone 19-14 and 21-11. That would seemingly equate to job security and be reassuring to recruits that they were on firm ground unless the coach suddenly bolted for greener pastures -- always a possibility in college sports.

   But it's pretty apparent now that job security really only exists for the best of breed in college coaching. With more money than ever flowing into NCAA sports and with schools needing to maintain their stature for when the next conference realignment comes along, ADs and college presidents are more willing than ever to pull the trigger a year too soon rather than risk being a year too late.

   I hate to say it, but in that context I think more mid- and even upper-level prospects should consider going the safer route in their college decisions. They're probably better off settling for 12 or 15 minutes a game on the court at a school where the coach is indisputably safe rather than aspiring to start for a team whose coach may be one cold spell away from being sacked. When the new regime arrives, the old players may be shoved overboard, too.

   And that's just plain sad.

   Fed Next? Last week's blogs from the annual Central Committee meeting at Turning Stone Resort made mention that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association is going to take a look at the relationship between its championships and the Federation competitions to evaluate whether improvements might be made.

   Generally speaking, things are messiest when the NYSPHSAA and Federation meets are held as a single event. The NYSPHSAA understandably worries that some of its own champions get lost in the shuffle because they finish behind entries from the PSAL, CHSAA and AIS.

   Writing for Milesplit.com, Kyle Brazeil took an exhaustive look at the current outdoor track format -- easily the most confusing of all the state championship events -- and possible improvements (including the qualifying process).

   He has lots of interesting analysis and possible

  
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alternatives, and he does take time to note the big hurdle that makes adding an extra weekend to the outdoor schedule all but impossible:

   "The problem here is scheduling," he wrote. "The spring track meet is already plagued with important decisions. Dates for Prom and graduations are anything but uniform across New York State. One only has to listen to the story of Hackley at this years State Meet, when they ran the qualifier on Friday night, flew home to graduation, and nearly missed their final the next day as they flew back for the meet. It also doubles the cost between venue rentals, officials, and timing. It is not a logical solution."

   Lacrosse numbers: The emails started arriving three days after the NYSPHSAA Central Committee approved the classification cutoffs for the 2017 boys lacrosse season, when the playoffs expand from three to four classes.

   People started looking at what the numbers meant for schools in their section and they weren't happy. Mostly, though, they just weren't understanding.

   While there are exceptions, the general idea is to balance the classes so that roughly the same number of teams across the state land in the same class. It was probably time for the NYSPHSAA to do that anyway since Class A has between 20 and 25 fewer teams than Classes B and C in 2016.

   This time, however, there was also the matter of spreading teams across four classes instead of three since Class D is being added in 2017. The lacrosse committee didn't create four equal-size classes, but they did com close enough that the differences are insignificant.

   The craziness comes with the disparities in the number of schools per section and the sizes of those schools. Section 3 will have more than twice as many Class D teams as Class A teams. Section 5's Class A is half the size of its Class B -- and that's after Pittsford and Greece Arcadia/Olympia opted to stay in the largest class even though they could have dropped down.

   Barring any further move-ups, here's the stat that drives home the disparity. Suffolk County will have 21 Class A teams all by itself next spring. The sections forming the western half of the state tournament bracket - Sections 3, 4, 5 and 6 -- will have a combined 23 teams. Neighboring Nassau County will have a robust 12 teams to choose from.

   Not surprisingly, the numbers swing in the other direction in Class D. Section 8 will have just two squads and Section 11 will have 3. Meanwhile, Section 3 will have 17 squads and Section 5 will have 10.

   Defending Class A champion Victor slides down to Class B, which the Blue Devils won in 2015. Defending Class B champ Jamesville-DeWitt becomes a Class C. Class C finalist Penn Yan slips down to the smallest class, where intersectional rival Cazenovia has also landed.


  
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