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Monday, Sept. 26, 2016: Longtime Maginn football coach Grasso dies

   Leading off today: Joe Grasso, the only varsity football coach Bishop Maginn ever knew, died Sunday of a heart attack. He was 66.

   After Maginn decided this spring that it could not continue fielding a team, Grasso signed on this fall as an assistant at Albany CBA. He was on the sidelines Friday as the Brothers defeated Niskayuna. Family members found him at home Sunday after Grasso missed a coaches meeting in the morning.

   "Joe was a leader in Catholic education in the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese, specifically at Bishop Maginn High School, for 40 years," CBA coach Joe Burke told The Times Union. "As a teacher, administrator, athletic director and coach, he touched the lives of thousands of students, athletes and their families. He also molded hundreds of young teachers and coaches as they began their careers."

   Grasso coached Vincentian Institute in its final two years and then moved over to Maginn from 1977 to 2015. He led Maginn to a record of 204-169-6, keeping the program viable against large-school competition in Section 2 even as enrollment dwindled since the turn of the century.

   "He faced some strong serious challenges and always seemed to find a way to work through them and turn a challenge into a positive. That was a characteristic of his life," retired Shenendehowa coach Brent Steuerwald said. "If I had something I wanted to talk to him privately about, I could do so with great confidence. Joe would give me his opinion and advice. ... We all had great respect for him."

   McClancy outfielder picked: Monsignor McClancy senior outfielder Quentin Holmes made the cut when USA Baseball announced its 20-man roster for the 2016 18U National Team that will compete in the COPABE Pan American "AAA" Championships beginning Friday.

   The event in Monterrey, Mexico, runs through Oct. 9.

   Four players in the 2016 roster helped the U.S. capture a gold medal at the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 World Cup in Japan last summer. That squad included Shenendehowa's Ian Anderson, who went on to be drafted No. 3 overall by the Atlanta Braves this past June.

   The U.S. team is training in Houston this week.

   Ivy League steps up: In a long-awaited move, the Ivy League proposed NCAA legislation last week to restrict recruiting and limit the exposure athletic programs have to high school student-athletes. Though the proposal cuts across all sports, it is seen as largely aimed at boys and girls lacrosse, where athletes are now declaring college intentions before entering ninth grade.

   The proposal, which could be voted upon early next year, would ban any verbal commitments before a student-athlete's junior year of high school, The Cornell Daily Sun reported. While the NCAA already forbids college coaches from initiating contact before the junior year of high school, loopholes have allowed programs to almost routinely circumvent the rule.

   "The comment you always hear is, 'I don't like doing it, but I have to because everybody else is,'" Cornell University AD Andy Noel said of early contact. "Well, if everybody else stops, then we would be OK."

   Floor plans: Cutting corners on costs sure can be expensive in terms of hours spent that perhaps could be invested elsewhere. That's my take from a feature by the Times Herald-Record about the new floor being installed in Eldred High's gymnasium.

   District voters' rejection of a bond proposition for approximately $200,000 of gym improvements did not change the fact that Eldred probably needed the new floor. So boys basketball coach David Binkowski reached out to contacts at Penn State to acquire material from a floor being replaced by the university.

   The old Eldred floor say atop a concrete base, leaving the wood with no "give" to it for players diving for loose balls or coming down hard from grabbing a rebound. Now, rolls of cushioning material will give the court some subtle "bounce."

   "I formed a 501(c)(3) and started fundraising," Binkowski told the paper. "Everyone in the community recognized that this floor needed to be replaced and my wife agreed to help me make that happen at all costs." football site

   While the flooring was donated, the transportation, equipment and supplies for the project were not. And the hidden cost comes in the hours being expended by volunteers to prepare the floor and also do refinishing work on the bleachers. The Penn State flooring came attached to large sheets of plywood and has required many hours of rehabilitation. Workers are removing nearly 100 nails per sheet and creating tongue and groove edges.

   'Youth Sports Arms Race': The cost and time commitment associated with youth sports have changed the shape and nature of these activities, particularly in the past 15 or so years. With that in mind, staffers from The Journal News hit the road this past spring and summer to investigate the growing world of youth sports in the Lower Hudson Valley and compile a lengthy package titled "Pay to Play."

   Reporters found it's not unheard of for families of high-level high school athlete to spend 20,000 a year on team fees, equipment, travel, private coaching and personal training. As the nut graph of the main story notes, "There was a time when club and travel teams were reserved for the select few standouts competing for college scholarships. Now, any parent with a checkbook can get a kid in the game. The difference, according to interviews with high school coaches, athletic directors, academics, parents and young athletes, is outside competition and specialized training have become almost commonplace for students who want to play varsity sports in high school."

   Said North Rockland AD Joe Casarella: "Back when I started, they had leather helmets almost. Kids played everything. They enjoyed themselves. Now they've been cheated out of their childhood a little bit as you move on 50 years later. Young kids are put on travel teams when they're 7 or 8 years old and they specialize in whatever sport it may be."

   And then there's the financial aspect:

   A 2015 University of Florida annual survey, conducted by the school's Sport Policy & Research Collaborative, found that only 38 percent of children from families with an income of $25,000 or less were involved in team sports. That rate soared to 67 percent for those with an income of $100,000 or more.

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