Leading off today:
An in-depth report this week by New Jersey Advance Media has put the nation's leading supplier of synthetic turf playing fields under the microscope and has sparked calls for government investigations of FieldTurf amid allegations the company knowingly sold defective material and sought to cover up turf failures.
The series of stories alleges FieldTurf intentionally mislead customers regarding Duraspine, a style of blade made from monofilament yarn fibers, and reaped $570 million by installing more than 1,400 fields across the country utilizing the fiber from 2005-12, when the product was discontinued. During that time, numerous fields were wearing out prematurely.
FieldTurf's marketers touted clients such as the New England Patriots to convince potential customers that Duraspine was worth the investment -- about $1 per square foot more than the competition, an $85,000 difference for an average field -- because of its longer lifetime.
In a statement, officials for FieldTurf (now a division of French flooring maker Tarkett) rejected accusations that they misled or defrauded customers as "completely false" and emphasized that player safety has not been compromised.
FieldTurf has said the problem resulted from a change in the process by supplier Royal TenCate. The firms battled in court, eventually setting their suits with neither side admitting any wrongdoing. In 2010, FieldTurf opened its own manufacturing and tufting/coating factories.
FieldTurf has replaced or upgraded 246 fields, but the reporting this week takes the company to task for allegedly continuing to use the material after it suspected it was defective. Some field owners have complained of complicated legal hurdles.
The report indicates other installers of artificial grass surfaces who've used TenCate products also have received complaints. But as the largest installer, FieldTurf is feeling most of the backlash.
FieldTurf officials emphasized the distinction between normal wear and tear and a defect, pointing out that all turf fields would eventually break down over time as a result of ultraviolet radiation, just like anything else made of plastic, such as outdoor furniture.
A database compiled by NJAM indicates as many as 113 college, high school and municipal fields in New York could potentially be affected by the Duraspine problems. Among them are four fields at Bay Shore High School, and three fields apiece at Arlington High School and Dowling College. Numerous other school districts and colleges have two fields on the list.
Some of the better-known facilities listed include Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, Schoellkopf Field at Cornell University, Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University, Rhinos Stadium in Rochester (where the field was recently replaced) and the University of Rochester's Fauver Stadium.
All-state cross country: Saratoga sophomore Kelsey Chmiel has been selected as the girls cross country runner of the year, the New York State Sportswriters Association announced Wednesday.
Chmiel was undefeated through the Federation championships and placed fifth last weekend in the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Ore.
Shoreham-Wading River's Katherine Lee, who defeated Chmiel at the NXN regional qualifier and ran 10th last weekend, was selected the season's top junior.
The full all-state team is posted in our reference section.