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Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2016: The story behind Sec. 6 eligibility ruling

   Leading off today: I wrote the following suggestion to reporters in a blog last month following the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's annual Central Committee meeting.

   "If you've never attended the annual NYSPHSAA Central Committee meetings, you should go at least once. There's a lot you can learn from seeing how the process plays out leading up to votes taken and proposals aired both at that meeting and down the road.

   "Some of the stuff I'm referencing below started showing up on the radar two years ago and came to a vote Tuesday or Wednesday. Other topics that were labeled "discussion" or "informational" last week may follow the same path to adoption or quietly fade away after further consideration in the coming months. Either way, attending the annual meeting helps you to understand the hows and whys."

   I'd like to amend that statement to add that reporters should also strongly consider attending the mandatory meeting for athletic directors that each section of the NYSPHSAA hosts annually. I attended the Section 5 meeting, led by Robert Zayas and Todd Nelson from the state office, today in Geneseo. The Section 6 edition of the gathering was held a day earlier.

   The meeting was a gold mine of information, touching on everything from potential conflicts between playoff schedules and SAT exams this fall to a thorough refresher course on transfer rules.

   There was also a reminder that some rules -- such as the maximum number of regular-season games -- fall under the authority of the NYSPHSAA while others are handed down by the New York State Education Department. One of those rules happens to be "duration of competition," which brings me to this ...

   Ruling goes against OP student: Jacob Kohler, who was diagnosed with autism as a child and needs a fifth year to graduate from Orchard Park, has been ruled ineligible by Section 6 to play football this fall.

   Kohler, 18, has exhausted his four year eligibility clock that began when he entered ninth grade. As was explained by Zayas during Tuesday's meeting with the Section 5 ADs, exceptions to the rule that might have helped Kohler were excised from the rulebook last year. The Kohler family has appealed Section 6's denial to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia and are awaiting a decision that could potential not be handed down until long after the conclusion of the football season.

   Kohler played on the junior varsity during his junior year and sparingly as a wide receiver on the varsity last year.

   "We definitely feel like the participation in sports and what it did for his body overall also had distinct psychological benefits," Scott Kohler said of his son. "I don't think for two seconds that the person sitting next to me right now would be the same person if he had not been involved in sports."

   Nevertheless, the eligibility hurdle to be cleared will be imposing. As The Buffalo News reported, the NYSED regulation says if "a pupil's failure to enter competition during one or more seasons of a sport was caused by illness or accident, such pupil's eligibility shall be extended accordingly in that sport." But the illness or accident has to be something that takes the athlete away from classes long enough to require additional semesters of studies in order to graduate -- which was not the case with Kohler.

   "We're upholding the commissioner's regulation," Section 6 Executive Director Timm Slade said. "We can't just arbitrarily say, 'Oh, you can participate.'"

   Speaking of eligibility: Andreo Otiniano has no real hope of relief under the rules governing mixed competition, but he continues to practice with his school's girls volleyball team.

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   After playing as a sophomore, Otiniano was ruled ineligible last season under the section of the rule addressing the potential adverse effect on female participants on a female team."

   But that didn't discourage Otiniano, so he's in his second year of helping the program by being a practice player.

   "I think it was hard for him at first," Mamaroneck coach Stacey Riter told The Journal News, "but there was never any question about whether he was going to continue to practice with us or be part of the team."

   No team this fall: West Canada Valley has informed Section 3 that it has canceled its boys varsity soccer season because of low player turnout.

   AD Ed Dougherty told that the first four practices turned up only 10 players.

   A good read: Departing just a little bit from this blog's usual fare, I want to bring to your attention a column this weekend from Kevin Gleason of the Times Herald-Record.

   What he wrote was inspired by the Gabby Douglas and Ryan Lochte episodes at the Rio Olympics but was largely a bleak assessment of what passes for "media" these days.

   "My industry is struggling enough with folks avoiding the written word and choosing social-media sites as their news sources," he wrote. "Legitimate journalists are being replaced by Twitter grouches sharing their skewed version of events. The masses are typically disinterested in reading stories of substance and perspective unless such tales can be miraculously penned in four sentences. Analytics reveal that many folks are spending less than a minute on stories that should be fully read and absorbed.

   "It's unfathomable and unforgivable, however, for us to pour gasoline on the Internet fire for the sole purpose of selling papers or, more obsessive these days, generating clicks. I suspect the journalist-cavemen partnership won't be confined to the Gabby Douglas debacle, hoping only that by the time it becomes a regular occurrence, I'll be spending large chunks of my days at Starbucks penning novels."

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