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Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016: L.I. schools spend heavily to update helmets

   Leading off today: It's a certainty that some spending -- even a substantial amount -- would have been done regardless, but I can't help but think that some exceptional enterprise reporting last year by Newsday is behind the purchase of 3,000 top-rated football helmets by Long Island high schools in the past year.

   The paper this week reported findings in its follow-up from a year ago and discovered the number of five-star rated helmets in the inventories of 108 (of 116) public schools jumped from 2,898 a year ago to 6,285 available this season. That represents more than half of the 11,093 helmets in circulation.

   The paper calculated that Long Island high schools spent more than $734,000 on helmets considered top-rated by researchers at Virginia Tech. That helped drive the number of one- and two-star helmets down to 139 from 885 last year. Many of those low-performing helmets, athletic directors said, are no longer being used. The average cost of a new five-star helmet purchased in the past year was $254.52

   Farmingdale, which has one of the largest programs on Long Island, spent $72,609 this summer on 210 helmets even though much of its inventory had consisted of four-star helmets.

   Additionally, Newsday reported 383 suspected concussions in the 2015 football season at 109 schools that responded to Newsday's queries. There were 373 suspected concussions in 2014 at 105 schools that responded.

   Here's evidence of how seriously people responded to Newsday's initial reporting from October 2015:

   A total of 20 school districts, encompassing 27 high schools, spent more than $10,000 on new helmets. Eleven of the districts spent more than $20,000 even though schools typically purchase six to 12 helmets a year to replace the ones that have aged out or were damaged.

   Retired Lowville coach dies: Dick Cole, who compiled a 174-98-4 record in 31 seasons as the Lowville football coach before stepping down in 2007, died Friday at the age of 67.

   Cole led the Red Raiders to three Section 3 championships. The 1998 title was the school's most recent until this month.

   Cole also was a longtime member of the Section 3 football committee. He also coached Lowville's boys tennis team and assisted with the basketball and wrestling programs.

   Quite a duo: There have been literally hundreds of college signings taking place around the state in a variety of sports this month. For sheer quality, you've got to love Cornell University's three New York pick-ups.

   The slacker of the group -- and we use that term lovingly -- is Holland Patent's Hunter Richard, who is merely a two-time NYSPHSAA champion already and holds a record of 218-26. He's going to be joined in Ithaca next fall by three-time champ Vito Arujau, who's 183-1 for his career and riding a 137-match winning streak, and four-time champ Yianni Diakomihalis of Hilton, who is on a 199-match streak.

   Out of court and right back in: It was about 10 weeks ago that I reported on the predicament of Staten Island Academy senior basketball player Jordan Caruso, a 2016 all-state honorable mention who is seeking an additional year of eligibility based upon missing nearly all of his freshman season at another school due to a knee injury.

   I segued into Caruso's story with a cautionary observation that the state's education commissioner might come to regret her decision earlier this fall to grant extended eligibility to an Orchard Park football player based upon his own freshman-year challenges.

   Well, the chickens have come home to roost.

   A lawyer representing Caruso's family had sought relief in September via State Supreme Court in Richmond County. The justice dismissed the case for now on the grounds that being denied the extra year of eligibility by the New York


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  • State Association of Independent Schools did not exhaust his options.

       The unexplored avenue had been an appeal to State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, a path that's now been traveled by attorney Richard A. Luthmann in a Nov. 8 filing that seeks priority consideration because the start of the basketball season is so close.

       Given the precedent she set in September by giving Jacob Kohler quick consideration -- and relief -- I don't see how she can't extend the same courtesy to Caruso, regardless of how insanely high the stack of paperwork on her desk happens to be.

       If, however, Elia denies the appeal, the case almost certainly will return to State Supreme Court ... where it will have company. That's because Luthmann filed a civil suit on behalf of the Caruso family on Oct. 26 alleging tortious interference on the part of the AIS and its executive director, Mark Lauria.

       To suggest the tone and tenor of the allegations is scathing doesn't begin to describe the filing. And front and center are comparisons between the way the AIS handled Caruso's appeal and how that organization may have handled the case of Devonte Green, an Indiana University freshman hoopster this fall who famously was allowed to play an apparently unprecedented seven seasons at various high schools before graduating from Long Island Lutheran last spring.

       Lawsuits are a dime a dozen and I have no idea if this one will ever make it to trial; the Carusos may well just call it a day if Elia grants the extra year of eligibility. But I'll give Luthmann points for playing rough. His filing suggests alleged AIS "activities may raise issues beyond this case with parties included but not limited to the New York State Department of Education, the New York State Attorney General's Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and others."

       If the matter somehow shows up on the radar of any or all of those entities, the AIS is looking at a lot of billable hours in defending its 501(c)(3) status and associated issues.

       All in all, they would have been better off just answering my questions last March and moving on.

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