Here’s more from Nancy Haggerty about Kennedy’s move from Section 1 to the CHSAA:
Kennedy Catholic High School’s exit from Section 1 for the Catholic High School Athletic Association was partially fueled by the section’s threat to expel all its teams for athletic recruiting, athletic director Father Matthew Newcomb said Tuesday.
His assertion came a day after Section 1 coordinator Jen Simmons received a letter from Kennedy announcing its departure.
Newcomb, who noted all Kennedy teams, with the exception of independent-bound girls lacrosse, field hockey and possibly ice hockey, will play in the CHSAA beginning in the fall, said, “We were worried. We had to protect ourselves.”
Tuesday, Simmons acknowledged telling Newcomb when he became AD last fall that, “a couple of teams were walking a gray line and schools were complaining.”
Simmons said she also shared three complaints, concerning baseball, boys basketball and boys lacrosse, with Newcomb and Kennedy director Father Mark Vaillancourt in late fall when they lobbied to move some teams to the CHSAA, while keeping others in Section 1.
“I said if you are in violation, you could put your program in jeopardy,” said Simmons, who noted, within the last couple of years, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association had warned Kennedy about recruiting.
But Simmons said she didn’t threaten expulsion and was satisfied with Kennedy’s responses to recent complaints.
“A lot of times, it’s some innocent things that are happening,” she said.
She added any sanction against a school would likely involve only the offending team unless multiple teams were in violation.
Asked whether Kennedy has followed the recruiting ban, Newcomb said, “I’m not with the coaches 24/7 but I believe they know the rules.”
The CHSAA also bans athletic recruiting.
Still, 562-student Kennedy hopes to bolster enrollment through the CHSAA.
“It’s good exposure for Kennedy Catholic, especially down-county,” Newcomb said.
Of course, it’s precisely travel down-county and farther that has evoked concern.
But Newcomb, who’ll attend a CHSAA scheduling meeting Wednesday, said many games will be played Saturdays and Kennedy will play mainly Bronx schools with Staten Island only if it wishes.
The exception is football, he said. A four-home/four-away schedule shows Kennedy opening on Staten Island before consecutive weekends in Brooklyn.
Another concern is girls teams playing in tiny gyms and on hardscrabble fields.
“We obviously have a beautiful facility. Most high schools don’t have what we have… But we can still have good competitions with a lot of schools,” Newcomb maintained.
Newcomb said if the section had allowed it, only football, baseball, boys and maybe girls basketball would have gone to the CHSAA, allowing Kennedy “to see how it would work.”
But the section bans schools from simultaneously competing in Section 1 and other organized leagues.
Newcomb hopes to schedule non-league, local opponents.
Brewster AD Dean Bernardo is open to playing Kennedy if schedules allow.
“It’s always extra incentive to play against friends. It’ll be a loss for us (otherwise),” he said, noting some Kennedy athletes earlier attended Brewster schools.
Still, citing travel and questions about his three-school ice hockey squad, which also includes Haldane and Putnam Valley, all-league goalie Joey Molfetta termed the move a “bad idea.”
Section 1 forbids CHSAA-player participation but Newcomb said he’d ask the CHSAA to allow public school kids to remain on the team, or might make hockey independent.
Kennedy, he said, plans only to add sports, possibly fencing and rugby.
“Any decision always has pros and cons but I believe we’re leading in the right way. Long-term,” he said, “it’s about just keeping Catholic education growing.”
The move seems permanent.
“This is a long-term commitment, not a three- or four-year thing and go back,” Newcomb said.