Response to Pub/PIAA Issue
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In the Feb. 10, 2004, issue of the Daily News, Ted
called for the Public
League to forget about being members of the PIAA and instead take
major steps to clean up its own house.
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I was very appreciative of today's article in the Daily News. You've always
been a supporter of the Public League and the many players such as my
myself who've played. As a past player, I've always wanted the opportunity
to play for a state title, and was very excited about the news. But after
reading your column, I can see where this decision would not be in the best
interest of the kids, or the city. Thank you for enlightening me.
(Ted's note: Damien was a star RB at Frankford.)
I have felt this way all along. Thank you for your excellent analysis.
Mr. Vallas has succeeded in flim-flamming most people including Sonny
Hill. Who really cares about State Championships? Maybe he should work
to re-establishing the City Title games, which would be a more positive
and less expensive experience for the kids.
Hey, Ted, excellent column today on the reasons why you don't feel the Pub
should be in the PIAA. I feel they do, and you provided the answer: They
don't match up to PIAA schools in sports other than basketball and track.
There is something very wrong in telling a kid that he or she is not good
enough, which is the message I took from your column. I could care less
about the skewed policies of the PIAA. That's not at issue. What is is that
most of these Pub kids have been told they can't compete with these
suburban kids most of their lives. Well, it's time they're told differently. It's
time Pub kids get a chance to challenge themselves. Joining the PIAA raises
the bar and has forced an influx of money to improve Pub athletic
facilities. Without joining the PIAA, Pub schools would have continued
languishing in the same miserable conditions they have always had. It's a
silent acceptance that says "Oh, these poor Pub kids can't achieve at a
higher level, so just let them remain where they've always been--down."
The Pub kids deserve a more diverse, more competitive playing environment.
And if taking their lumps for a few years in other sports, such as football,
soccer, wrestling and baseball against PIAA schools is the cost, so be it.
In the long run, these kids will be better off for in the long run.
Don't tell me you wouldn't love to see Chester High playing Gratz at packed
Villanova, or William Penn's girls' track team bucking up against Penn
Wood, or Strath Haven in the state track and field championships? It's great
competition that these kids deserve. Now all we have to do is get the
Catholic League and the Inter-Ac on board to get a true representation of
the best teams in Pennsylvania.
-- Joe S.
(Ted's note: Joe covers suburban high school sports for the Inquirer.)
Today I had the opportunity to read two controversial opinion columns
in Philadelphia Newspapers. One was a great expose that brought
attention to a problem I've seen first hand. The other was a waste of
newspaper space. The latter was written by Stephen A. Smith, the man
whose job I'm going to take over. Later, I will discuss this with him
personally and demand either his resignation or those ten wasted minutes
of my life back. But now I'd like to talk about the superior article
with the man who wrote it.
In my first experience covering Public League Football I was
assigned to cover a game at Thomas Edison High School and was completely
shocked at what I saw. Prior to games invovling my high school in the
Catholic League, there was always a lot of activity going on. Equipment
managers were setting up the field, assistant coaches tested their
headsets while players warmed up independently, and underclassmen took
care of their chores. This was not the case at Edison. After players
came out in the order that they were ready, there was no sign of a coach
anywhere. Finally, a coach made his way onto the sidelines, hauling a
water jug by himself. No other coaches followed. I approached him in
desperate need of a team roster and was immediately given a copy of a
written list of players and numbers. Not only was their roster not set
in stone, it was too fickle to merit print, although I wouldn't be
surprised if they did not have the means to print out a roster. Anytime
a player needed to be taped up or have a helmet tightened, this single
coach took care of it. Anything that needed to be done, he did it. He
even threw the passes to his players in warm-ups.
It looked like something out of a Little Giants or Bad News Bears
movie. Except that there was no happy ending. The Owls lost in a game
that could have been one by a JV, freshman, or even CYO team. The sad
truth was this team needed help anyway it could get it. I'm sure they
would've greatly appreciated any assistance in coaching, trainers, and
even uniforms. To think that they would have to decline such generosity
for fear of violating the rules of an organization that won't help them
anyway is outrageous. I don't much about the PIAA and what it would do
for players other than forcing them to follow more guidelines in
exchange for the chance to be State Champs, but I don't see how it would
benefit the players at all. Teams like Edison won't be competing for
state championships anytime soon. Not until they get some serious,
serious help first.
Now that I've fulfilled my obligation to check in every time a Thoughts
page is opened, I've got ramble on and write a letter to my opinionated
friend at The Inquirer.
After reading your article in the Daily News. I would like to suggest
that some of your points can be solved.
I left the Philly area in 1976 to work as an Athletic Trainer in
Texas. In Angleton High School.
I spent 4 years teaching in Westampton in New Jersey . I graduated
from West Chester State University (College) in 72 and graduated
Northeast High School in 66. Were I played soccer. Yes I was one of the
boy's that grew up thanks to the Lighthouse Boys Club ,along with all
the other Cappo's in Philly
The reason Texas athletics is so called King of High School
athletics is that all Highs School that are Public Schools belong to the
University Interscholastic League , which regulates all sports,
academics, and music competition. Yes there is interschool competition
on the state level and state championships in all types of areas.
1. All athletes must be passing all subjects to be eligible for
This is done by having a computer based graded check that is printed
from the main office, The list shows each student in the school that
failed a subject. All the coaches have to do is check that list to see
who is passing on the team.
2. You mention it would be better for the teams and coaches that the
would not have to be employed by the school district to teach. I
disagree with this.
In Texas the UIL rule is, that a coach must be a full time employee
of the school district to coach. There are exceptions for retired
coaches and we do not have any large scale problem with coaches.
3. We do have our large inter city school like Philly. Houston and
Dallas and they are very competitive in the state level of sports and
4. The most important thing I can see by the so call boss of schools,
is that he realized the importance of the health and safety of the PL
athletes. It is important to hire athletic trainers in the PL schools.
It is about time.
In Texas, most class 5A high school have 2 full time athletic trainers
with know teaching duties.
Please feel free to contact me about any point.
Yes I still come home and spend my summer in Sea Isle.
Earl Osborne ATC/LAT
I'm not sure where to start. I'm a suburban father of four who
lived in Philly until I was 13. Then we move to Montgomery County. I
went to North Penn High. So a bit of background. Is your problem with
the PIAA, which has it's problems, even with teams out here? Or is your
problem with Philly teams playing outside of Philly? You complain about
attendance issues, well they should be fixed not matter where 'Brook
plays. Athletic department issues should also be fixed not matter where
West Philly plays. To be the best you have to play and beat the best.
Just sitting in Philly thinking you the best, then going to college or
Junior college to find out you're just average is not a good deal. When
I was at North Penn we ran against the Philly schools in indoor track.
Those were some of the hottest meets you ever wanted to see. It was fun
and no one complained. All the best track people knew who was the best,
no matter what league they were in. The truth was told on the track. If
people ask where I live, I say Perkasie. If they ask where I'm from, I
say Philly, born and raised. The problems you raise are huge, but where
those teams play and the problems you state are not connected. Now if
you say the issues will bring a bigger light to the problems in Philly,
I will agree with you there. But like my mom always said, most times
things don't change unless someone gets hurt. Hurt in pride in this
Dear Mr. Silary,
Let me first say that I admire the work that you do in covering the
Philadelphia Public League and Philadelphia Catholic League. I am an
avid fan of high school athletics, and enjoy your columns. I would also
like to agree with your assessment of the uniform gate situation with
West Philly, and the situation involving Gus Felder. The PIAA looked
real bad in those situations, and should re-evaluate some of the rules
that are currently used toward athletics.
However, I do have a problem with several other points that you made in
your column dated 2-10-04. If I am wrong with my interpretation, I
apologize in advance. You appear to blaming the PIAA for raising the
standards of the Philadelphia Public League. For example, holding
teachers accountable for providing the grades of a student-athlete to
the coaches to see if he/she is eligible. What is wrong with that? If
the teachers do not want to do it, they should be reprimanded somehow.
Remember, the kids are students first, athletes second. As for your
assessment of Philly kicking basketball butt, but would have to forfeit
due to a few kids who never go to class, but show up for the practices
and games is bad-I don't see it. You are basically describing what is
wrong in the world of student- athletics today. These kids need to be
held accountable for their actions. If they aren't now, then they will
believe that they can get away with anything-Is that the message that we
want send our youths?
You also discuss the issues of medical clearance for football players. I
can understand the problems that might be associated with trying to find
doctors who would be willing to perform these physicals, but you cannot
fault the PIAA for having this rule. In this day and age of a sue happy
society, you'd be crazy not to have a rule of this magnitude. All you
have to do is look at instances such as Korey Stringer. I realize that
he was a professional athlete, but I am sure that If I took the time to
investigate, I would find several cases involving similar scenarios at
the high school level. It is a liability earthquake waiting to happen if
an athlete is not giving the proper clearance to participate in his/her
sport. In the suburbs, schools enter into partnerships with area
orthopedic clinics. Am I to believe that this cannot be done in the city
with all of the medical facilities that are present?
I also disagree with your point of view in regards to the rivalries. Now
I could be wrong, but the way that I see it, the rivalries would still
stay in tact. You could still argue that they are playing for the Public
League title, but now it would also be the District 12 title. So the
perception of Gratz losing to Dobbins or FLC, and having to hear it for
a whole year and the rest of their lives would still be in place. Now
the winner can truly prove its case as the best in the state by playing
other teams from across the state. I also do not buy you assessment that
37 people would travel to Harrisburg to cheer on their teams. I have
seen the Public League Championship both live and on t.v., and the fans
are incredible. I believe that they would follow their teams.
You also mentioned that promises need to be kept. How is that the fault
of the PIAA if certain people within the Philadelphia School District
and Mr.Vallas have not lived up to their end of the bargain. Once again,
I could be wrong, but wasn't the announcement to join the PIAA made 2
years ago? I don't know, call me silly, but I believe that is enough
time to get the schools compliant with PIAA rules and regulations. If
these promises that you are talking about have not been kept, or more
training and education of the PIAA's rules and regulations need to be
conducted, then perhaps the state could place the admission of District
12 to the PIAA on hold until these promises have been met. I blame
Vallas for not keeping up his end of the bargain, but not for the
attempt to improve high school athletics in Philadelphia.
Listen, I am not going to stand up on a pedestal and say that the PIAA
is the standard high school athletic association, because they are far
from it. However, some of the things that you appear to be worried about
in regards to academic eligibility and medical clearance are good things
that the PIAA stands for. I believe that the move to the PIAA would be a
shaky one at first, but there is no doubt that the Public League has the
potential to make some noise in the state of Pennsylvania in regards to
its athletics. Being a former basketball player, I always wondered what
it would have been like to play against Lionel Simmons or Doug Overton
or Nate Blackwell. Being an avid basketball fan, how about a matchup of
Carlisle vs. those great teams of Simon Gratz. Billy Owens vs. Rasheed
Wallace. Jeff Lebo vs.the L-Train. Or how about a state championship
that puts Eddie Gaskins vs. those great C.B. West teams. Or "Boonah"
Brinkley vs. that "D" from North Penn.
Thank you for your time in reading this letter. As I stated in the first
paragraph, I respect your work and enjoy your columns. This one just
rubbed me the wrong way. Once again, I apologize if my interpretations
were not correct. I will continue to look forward to your columns, as
they are the only way that I can follow the Public League.
While I enjoyed your article and thought it was well written, I think the
PIAA has some benefits. This could be the very thing to try and turn around
the public schools in Philly. The Mayor can try to get more funding to
these schools...make sure the weekly reviews are taken care of, and if
teachers aren't cooperating, find new ones who will. I know you say that it
should clean up first, but I think this will force to make the "clean up"
quicker and more efficient. Now, I do not agree with the sponsors of the
jersey's. I was a member of PIAA as a athlete, and now referee, and usually
let those things slide. I totally agree with you on that point that it was
stupid, but they do some good things too. For physicals, have forms in the
office, and bring in a couple of doctors, charge 10-20 dollars, and get a
quick, cheap, physical. They take 10-20 minutes each, start at 7am, and
everyone is done by noon. Kids are playing sports without being cleared by
a doctor??? that is outrageous. a kid can have a serious problem and not
know about it. that's just common sense. and if the funding isn't
there...here's your chance to be a hero Mayor. get at least a part-time
trainer in every school. I attended a school in which was 5.5 hours from
Hershey, and that would have been the happiest trip to make (we were one
game away my senior year in 2001, losing to Franklin who would have beaten
any team in the state) And it's not PIAA's fault that the Phlily team would
travel 2 hours to play and then lose to some team. Philly is the "superior"
league, they should win, right? I know Philly produces lots of D-1 talent,
but the teams do not play as hard as other teams in the state. (most of the
time, they don't have to) but I'll take a team who plays hard over a team
who doesn't anyday. And no, no Philly team is going to have that bad of a
game reffed for them because they are too good, right??? If Philly teams
are this good, they should dunk over the competition, correct? Are the PIAA
bigwigs out of line most of the time, yes. do they just want to make money,
yes. Do they have a few good rules? yes. and can a PIAA team beat a team
from the Pub, in Philly with fair refs? I have no doubt in my mind. Two
teams I can think of that would have no problem. 1996, Lower Merion...you
should know that team. And I one team from my neck of the woods. Cathedral
Prep, (not sure of the year) had two local heros in two respects. Julilian
Blanks (LaSalle) and Jed Ryan (Penn) who's team played harder than anyone
I've ever seen. give it a chance...if it sucks...just switch back. that's
all you have to do!
Great article today Ted......I hope the Catholic league big-wigs read
this and finally forget about joining the PIAA once and for all. It
would be a real shame to throw away all the incredable PCL history for
the sake of playing some school in up-state Pa for some title that
nobody cares about. In my mind, there is nothing more prestigious than
a PCL title or a Phila. Public league title......Ted, you may have saved
the PCL!.....see ya this spring
(Ted's note: Joe is Roman's baseball coach.)
teacher unions should be abolished from sports is right , just look at the
league an all the volenteers. An smaller sports budgets.
Ted, FANTASTIC job on Tuesdays acticle about the Public League. talk
about "telling it like it is"?
-- Mike Monti
As an athlete in the public league i feel the move to the PIAA
was a good one.Its only the first year so people who dont like it need
to just relaxe an wait to see what happens.Take it from someone who had
to do it, the weekly grade checks are being followed an some athletes
from my school have had to sit because when you play sports i guess u
dont have to go to class,or so they think.By going state wide with our
programs it gives us the chance to weed out the schools who shouldnt
field teams in the first place.I can remember going to kensington to
play a soccer game an playing on a field that is about 40 yards long and
stripped of all its grass,oh yeah it had one patch an it was about 2
feet high.The point is, nobody should have to play on fields like
that.I can also recall hearing a story from a baseball coach from either
west philly or i dunno one of those schools over there,well he told me
he gave up coach because dur! ing a game, after a strike out to end the
inning the catcher tossed the ball back to the mound and the grass was
so high they couldnt find the ball; it got so bad everyone from both
teams started searching the infield for the ball,about 10 minutes later
someone yelled"I FOUND IT" as he held a ball high,but as it turns out it
was'nt the ball they were using,it was another that was previously
lost.....Now that is ridiculous why are games played on fields like
this.For schools that cant match up in the equipment,fielding,and
staffing company,vallas needs to start reaching in his pockets fast
cause its bad.
Another problem in the pub is lack of intrest.When we
traveled to king to play a soccer game they had 13 players,come on how
can u only have 13 players,and to top it all off one of them got a red
card in the first half for throwing a punch at an opposing player.I mean
u cant make kids try out for these teams but i mean the ones that do,
the coaches need alittle more control.
The coaching issue is another thing.The pub needs to put
some money out for some decent coaches.I see cathlic an inter-ac coaches
showin up to baskteball games in suites,but in the pub coaches show up
in t-shirts an jeans,is it cause they are cheap??no, its cause alot of
coaches dont care,thats why we need to be able to get coaches in here
who want to be there.
Regaurding if we could hold our own in the state games,we
can.Yeah alot of teams that play in the pub would get smoked by teams in
the burbs,but the better schools could hold there own.I participate in a
partnership program that sends me an some kids from my school to strath
haven for the day for games an events,and the kids we take arnt our
schools best athletes,its just a bunch of kids trying to get out of
class for the day an have fun,well not to put strath haven down but they
really arnt much competition.
so the bottom line is vallas needs to start spending money
for this thing to work,because if the rules are followed right it
will.Moreover, we need to start looking further for coaches,many
coaches,in the more competitive schools are doing a good job but i feel
if the bad programs had better coaches they would represent there school
in a decent fashion.
(Ted's note: Jay is a baseball player for NE High)
I am of two minds on the subject. I am all for expanding
for city kids in all aspects of athletics. I think it's hilarious when
upstate teams strut around as "state basketball champions" when Roman,
GA, Gratz, Neumann, Bartram, etc, etc., would wipe the floor with
them.So I wouldn't mind seeing Pub teams kick upstate butt in hoops. And
it will force many people to come to grasp with a city that many people
in the state fear and loathe -- familarity in this case might not breed
But as someone who has watched both city and suburban sports for
over 25 years, the simple fact is that the Pub teams simply do not have
the infrastructure, support or money to even come close to most suburban
schools. The disparity in football is shocking and could well be
physically dangerous. Most suburban teams have more non-coaching
"support" personnel than Pub teams have coaches.
As bad as football is, the other sports might be worse. Many
city kids do not have the chance to play sports such as field hockey,
wrestling or softball until they get to high school. Suburban kids have
been playing them since they were just out of diapers. Some of those
scores could be truly hideous.
While the Pub can screw up just fine on its own, the PIAA's
ludicrous rules and intense politics offer a whole new realm of
potential pitfalls for city teams -- for example, the PIAA just changed
a longstanding rule that district champions always get first-round state
games in their district; I am absolutely convinced it's so they can move
state games out of the city if suburbanites/upstaters howl about having
to go to neighborhoods they think are "dangerous", thus denying Pub
teams homefield/court advantages. And then there's the money -- the PIAA
takes a huge cut of gates that until now has all stayed here.
All that being said, this could be a positive IF IF IF Vallas
pumps money and commitment into Pub programs and facilities to make them
even anywhere near the suburban/upstate standard. If he does that, then
Pub kids have a chance. But if he doesn't, the result will be grossly
unfair to city kids competing in an environment where they start 20
points down, so to speak.
-- Brad Wilson
(Ted's note: Brad is a suburban sports writer/editor and has also done
some Pub FB coverage for us through the years. Like all of us, he has
Pub "stories" to tell.)
".....I can see this now: One of our basketball teams will travel
upstate with maybe 37 fans and lose to an inferior team with 2,000 fans.
Our team will somehow shoot five free throws. The other team will
somehow shoot 30. Will Vallas be there to greet them as they get off the
bus, mad at the world?"
An excellent point. This crap went on in the PIAA throughout the 80's
and 90's, and almost always jurt the smaller DIstrict one teams. We were
forced to travel to far away places because the hick towns could sell
out an arena. Mike Kern wrote an article way back in 84 about the
PIAA's "Mad dash for Playoff Cash", and it still holds true today.
Public league schools will be getting creamed in this situation the same
way. When the public league teams get screwed in this manner, make it
front page news.
Penn Wood '88
Having read your opinions in the Daily News I believe this article was
written because your paper has already covered every thing about St. Joe's
basketball team and needed something to fill the space. You're just trying
to get a rise out of people aren't you?
I agree with you that West Philly should never have had to forfeit because
someone donated uniforms and the time is right for the teacher's union to
change the policy of allowing only teachers to coach as long a thorough
screening process for potential candidates is involved. Some if not most of
your assertions or opinions are out right insulting.
As a tax paying resident of Philadelphia you give me even more reason to
believe that when it comes to the school district my tax dollars are being
flushed down the toilet.
It's distressing to see contradictory message from the district's executive
officer and his administration. How can Vallas' plan work if the people who
are in charge of carrying out the plan don't believe it will work? So I
guess it means more money down the toilet.
Something's I must take issue with:
You definitely don't do the coaches any justice either by suggesting that
some of them can't use a computer to look up a players/students attendance.
And speaking of attendance you made mention of a scenario that you could see
where a Philly team would win a state title and then have to forfeit due to
excess absences or ineligible players. No where in your piece did you hold
the student/player or his/her parents accountable for anything.
Which only becomes an issue because you insinuated that every Catholic
League football player has his own gym membership or better yet personal
trainer. I wonder what the parent's of players at North Catholic or Cardinal
Dougherty think of that statement? The kids I know workout at their school,
neighborhood boys club, PAL, or YMCA as I'm sure what you eluded to pertains
to certain kids at St. Joes or O'Hara. But to lump all the student athletes
together as well as to insinuated that their parents can afford these types
of things because they pay for their son or daughter to go to a certain
school is an insult to all!
And to suggested that you could see a situation when a Philly team would
travel to an upstate location and lose a game to an inferior team because
the referees would have something to do with the outcome is just flat
unfair. You're already giving these kids what they don't need...more
excuses. There are basketball games played in the city, state, and across
the country night in and night out and I bet you most if not all of the
losing coaches if asked might say the officials were in part responsible
for his team's lose.
So here's my opinion: Rather than give these kids more excuses let's teach
them how the adult world works, the one that they'll soon be entering. There
are rules and if don't want to obey the rules then you pay the
consequences....for instance one would be if you don't show up to school you
don't get to play in the games. Because I don't know of to many employers
who continue to pay you when you don't show up for work.
Great article. I'm a head boys basketball coach at Pennridge High
Upper Bucks county. I can't make sense of half the things that go on. The
PIAA is so inconsistent and never seems to have the best interest of the
kids. Philly schools should get while they can, because once your in the
PIAA they never let you out
-- Dean Behrens
I'm sure you're getting a lot of e-mails about your
column concenring the Public League and its
relationship with the PIAAA. I just wanted to say
that I thought your column was brilliant. It seems
like this new guy from Chicago and a few more people
are losing sight of the fact that their job is to
provide the best chance for their athletes to succeed.
You hit the nail right on the head: suburban schools
simply have more resources and better facilities and
their kids certainly as a whole have much better
The Public League needs to take care of its own house
first before it worries about entering someone else's.
-- Brian Cunniff
(Ted's note: Brian is a sports writer in the Wildwood area.)
what a small-minded and poorly reasoned article. i played high school sports in
and around philadelphia, and can not be in more serious disagreement with your
position. how else will the public league ever change its attitude and mindset
unless it is exposed to new stimuli and challenges? do you expect to fix
itself on its own time? are you kidding? perhaps if the kids on the basketball
team have to deal with the egregious inefficiency of school employees, they
will see to it taht the situation CHANGES! this article is a perfect example of
just how small-minded, "provincial" as you put it, philadelphians really are.
thank god that paul vallas is making the decisions, and you are not.
I read your article on the PIAA's involvement with the
uniform fiasco and wondered if it should've been printed in the wine section? It sounded
like you were whining about the rules of the PIAA. The rules are the rules and that's how
everything works. We don't have to like but have to follow them. Doesn't Roman have a
contract with Adidas or something that? Maybe M&N should've checked to see if this was
within school regs before donating. Don't agents "donate" plane tickets,
jewelry, etc. to kids all the time in college? When college break the recruiting rules
they are blasted by the NCAA for violations. I think the NCAA rules are crazy but they are
put in place for a reason.
I heard a comment on 610 about making adults stay away from sports and think that's just a stupid statement. Maybe we should let the kids call their own fouls and not have any refs either? I don't know the NCAA rules but those jersey's could've been a violation towards a kid who's trying to go to Duke or a LaSalle or Widener. Like I said before the NCAA rules are crazy and that very well could've fell into a violation. Aren't you the one that suggested that an upstate school would have a friend in Philly to investigate a grade of a kid if they were in the state championship? The same could be said for this. I know for a fact that grades were changed so that certain athletes could play in the playoffs for sports in the Catholic League. I seen it right before my very eyes. Teachers felt the pressure of Administration to allow the school some positive publicity and they achieved it by bending the rules and changed a grade. I don't even want to talk about the recruiting tools that are used to lure elementary school kids to high schools. I'll wait for you to write an article blasting some other rule.
I had a Sports Law class in college and the professors daughter was a 4 year starter at GW. She played in all the summer AAU tournaments. When she was coming out of college it was when the WNBA was just getting started. If she wanted a chance to play in the WNBA she paid for all the t-shirts for all the basketball summer leagues she was in. She paid by check and had a paper trail to make sure it was known that nothing was given to her for free or "donated". I know I do not have as much information as you do about the rules but your article looked like you finally had a chance to blast PIAA and you took it. Simon Gratz State Champs sounds a hellava lot better than Pub Division S Champs.
(Note from Ted: I know the person who wrote this; we correspond often. I did not post his e-mail address because it contains his name and that would give away the name of the school he went to.)
Congratulations on being the first to reveal Vallas for what he is...a bully and a fraud.
As a 22 year District employee I've seen them come and go. I'm just one of many waiting for this "Hillbilly Bear" to pull up stakes.
Again, congratulations! (Now maybe the rest of the News will catch up).
-- Sol Haas
problem is the principal who created the problem in the first place by having his whole
team forfeit a game due to spurious ethical concern about a very minor issue on
the name of a donor displayed prominently on the back of a jersey. He is the one who
should be fired for making a laughing stock out of Simon Gratz HS and taking away the
cutthroat spirit of winning basketball games which felt like a deflated balloon to
members of Gratz's basketball team.
What will happen to West's principal? Nothing at all and he might even be praised for his "ethical" reasoning.
That is why people are loath to donate to the school district lest they
create a problem they did not intend to. If someone donated basketball
uniforms for the basketball team, what is to stop the principal from
refusing the donation on the grounds that other kids will not get new
clothes to look nice in order to go to school?
Intelligence is not a virtue to running a school. The smartest people
are CEO's of corporations, not school principals and superintendents!
-- James K. Goodwin
I thought your article in Tuesday's Daily News was excellent and
insightful. I agree with you that the Public League needs to clean its act up before
trying to compete against teams from all across the state. I mean, the Pub isn't
even officially in the PIAA yet and they are making headlines due to rule infractions.
What happens when upstate coaches find out that the star running back on a Pub team
missed 37 days of class and had a 1.9 GPA? The Pub and city sports will become a
laughing stock. Like you said in the article, how can a Pub football team who lacks
a homefield, lacks organization and can barely field a team participate against teams from
upscale Pennsylvania communities? I just don't see this working out to benefit the
city or the Pub. Even some of the CL teams would/will have trouble competing with
suburban schools. Although it may be far fetched, why can't the Public League
champions play the Catholic League champions like they used to? I think it would
mean alot more to the city than say Frankford or Northeast playing some team from Erie,
PA. and getting smoked.
-- Pat "The Stat" Gordon
(Ted's note: Pat covers baseball for the website each spring.)
If everyone felt the same way about change that you do...we'd still be
sitting in the dark, afraid to try anything other than using candles to
light the room. C'mon, get over your own fears. Having the public league
compete in the PIAA is the equivalent of a very talented, but young, player
competing against more experienced kids on the playground. They might be
equally talented but have less exposure to the game. But we all know that
the only way to get better is to compete against more experienced players.
Now I'm not suggesting that PL schools are less competative or gifted
athletically, and my metaphor using the playgrounds as an example doesn't
mean the PL is in any way less capable than the rest of the PIAA, what I'm
trying to point out is that the necessity to follow a stricter code, to
overcome adversity that may be presented from playing in hostile
environments, to competing and beating schools with greater resources will
inspire PL schools to pay more attention to detail, to use their resources
more wisely, and aspire to overcoming the odds...
I can't believe you're so afraid of that challenge...
For the past few years, Ted and I have gone back and forth on this
discussion regarding the Pub joining the PIAA. I've been the one who has
been torn on the issue. Ted's been consistent and passionate about this
I look at things like this. If Paul Vallas is going to put his money
where his mouth is and the PIAA can be a little more forgiving about
breaking the Pub (sorry, I'll never refer to it as District 12) into the
mix the next few years while they get their stuff together, then it
could work down the road.
But the sheer numbers of trying to improve equipment, facilities,
coaches, etc, will eventually make it cost-prohibitive in a city where
the tax base is shrinking and being strangled and schools which often go
to Harrisburg with the complaint that they don't have enough money for
As someone who has spent seven years watching the suburbs, please know
that I think that basketball and track will be the only sports where the
Pub is competitive right away. But there are different portions of the
state where teams are not competitive in any sports, so I really think
that's a wash.
My main complaint that I had about Ted's article is that I think the horse
is already out of the barn, if you will. If this was a year ago, I think
there could have been something done to stop this at that time. But the
train is going down the tracks and there's nothing going to stop it.
(Any more cliches I could use?)
-- Kevin "Sparky" Cooney
(Ted's note: Sparky is a Judge grad and used to write for this site before
he got chomped by the suburban bug -- smile).
Good Day Ted:
Thanks for writing such an informative article. Your position is
surprising given your extensive experience covering high school sports
and the Public league in particular. You should know better. Low
expectations and low standards plague the PL and the communities where
these students live. Paul Vallas is correct. The days of low
expectations are over and it is time to raise the bar, not just in
Public league athletics but also in academics. I applaud Vallas and
others for recognizing and beginning to change the culture of low
expectations that has handicapped our children for far too long. Your
article and mindset seek to perpetuate the tired theory that our
inner-city children cannot compete. Let's give them the opportunity and
the tools they need to compete. The reasons you cite for withdrawing
from PIAA reads like the playbook of excuses for a kid that didn't do
When we expect more from our children and from ourselves we get more. In
time the deficiencies that exist in the PL athletic programs will be
fixed. But if you are waiting for everything to be perfect Ted, you are
going to be waiting a while. In the meantime our children will continue
to get the message from you and other proponents of your position--they
are not good enough. That position is wrong and very condescending. Our
children can compete. Give them the chance. Joining the PIAA is the best
thing that could happen for the PL. While the teams might not win
immediately, they will get the message loudly and clearly that they can
compete and that we have high expectations for them.
It is time for our children and young adults to see that there is far
more to the world and even to our state than their own neighborhoods and
the immediate suburbs. Exposure to other areas in PA can open up new
worlds for them and in the end Ted isn't that one of the purposes of
education and athletic competition?
-- Michael S. Nixon
Fail to see the point in your article. You state all the areas
Public league must improve for its own sake and the sake and safety of
its students. But then you complain that the PIAA will force these
improvements. But that is a bad thing? The article comes off
incredibly small minded and territorial.
Obviously as a non-public league person I am troubled by this. I don't
claim to understand the intricacies of the public league, however, the
changes that will be invoked by entering the PIAA will obviously improve
the athletic situations at the schools. Create more red tape, yes,
force uniformity, yes, but also advance the schools into the 20th
century and making athletics a positive avenue for all of the public
Change can be positive, just an outsider's observation.
ps- Uniforms, you are talking about uniforms? All the school needed to
do is check into the uniform requirements.
Hey Ted I want to speak out on the issue. You make some very valid
points but you also make some broad generalizations that are negative,
hurtful and stereotypical. The comments about the only kids who don't go
to Catholic and/or Inter-AC schools are those who can't cut it
academically or don't know how to do better. I believe that statement is
detrimental to every kid that is not in one of the public league
academic schools or the other two leagues. There are good kids in these
schools. There are supportive parents in these schools. Of course there
are problems in the Pub. That's the reason that several parents struggle
to pay to send their kids to the Catholic schools and some manage to get
their kids into the Prep's and Penn Charter's (I hope I'm able to get my
sons there-I recognize the quality level of the academics & athletics) I
have two son's that I would hope would be able to go to good Public
schools and get a good education and have athletic success as well. I
always tell kids to rise up regardless of your surroundings. Your
article seems to say that there will be no rising up in the Public
League. Te bar is low so just step over it. I thank you for the article
Ted because it helps inspire me to do more to help these kids in any way
that I can. My heart is heavy when it comes to subjects like this
because I was blessed to turn my life around and I walk amongst these
problems and try to stop the bleeding. I constantly talk to my nephew
and try to warn of the danger always lurking around us. He is starting
to listen and after some boyhood nonsense that cost him the Thanksgiving
football game and half of this basketball season and a trip to Myrtle
Beach he seems to be coming around. His coach seems to have regained
faith in him. The Bilal Benn situation couldn't have hurt either.
Basically what I'm saying Ted is that it doesn't matter if they join the
PIAA or not there is a lot to be done for our kids. I also agree that I
would rather see the city title game back.
-- Renel Sample
Very good column. I was thinking about some of the things you brought up
in the story on Wednesday, when I attended the Public League wrestling
finals. While I was there, I watched Frankfords Arnold Mullins and Joe
Farina, two of the top wrestlers in the Public League help win the title
for their team.
Whats unique about the Public League is that many of the kids who play
sports, play sports in all three seasons. While there are some kids who
specialize in a particular sport, many do a little bit of everything
and have fun all year round.
Next year, they will run into teams that practice all year. Over in
Jersey (where the teams participate in the NJSIAA), many coaches require
their kids to stick to one sport. They play that particular sport during
the season, and the rest of the year, theyre in the weight room
preparing for the following season. That is what it takes to be
successful. Football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, soccer, field
hockey, every sport is a full time sport. And if their not participating
in the high school sport, they are playing AAU ball or something that
will prepare them for the following season.
Next year, the kids who play in the Public League will have a choice.
They can either continue to have fun and have the chance to play in as
many sports as they want, or they can just stick to one thing in order
to make a run at a state title. Either way, these kids are being
cheated. If they play one sport, they are cheating themselves out of
having the most fun possible. If they play multiple sports, they can
pretty much forget about winning a championship, because there are
schools out in the Burbs who practice 12 months out of the year.
Right now, in my opinion, things are perfect. When I watched Arnold
Mullins dump a big jug of water over Bob Peffles head, he didnt stop
to think if Frankford was the best in the state. He knew that his team
was the best in the league, and that was enough to put a Kool-Aide smile
on his face.
-- Joe Mason
(Ted's note: Joe is also a sports writer.)
I respectfully disagree with your arguments in the article about why
Philly schools shouldn't join the PIAA. It seems the reasoning you
offer sounds an awful lot like a list of excuses as to why we shouldn't
push the athletic environment to a higher level. If this were a
collegiate level discussion, the parallel argument would have a college
not joining the NCAA because "we don't want an organization 1,000 miles
away telling us what to do". I'm sorry, but such reasons in my opinion
are lame. I think the rejection of those jerseys is an excellent role
example to the student athletes about where that line is between being
an athlete and being a walking billboard for some local merchant. Do
you actually think M&N's motives were purely to give the school new
uniforms? If so then why the larger than normal tag? This was free
advertising. We owe our student athletes better and the PIAA made
someone think about what was happening. If that's bad, then we are in
Entering the PIAA will introduce greater rigor into the programs thereby
benefiting the athletes and the schools as a result. As an athlete, you
always want to know how good you are. To be the "Champion" means you
are the best. And yes, there will that school from some pudunk part of
the State that has 2000 fans and beats you. And you know what? That's
because on that day that team was better. So now we need to learn from
that and improve. Why settle for the sandlot when there's a much wider
horizon out there? Should we only participate if we can win it all?
Tell that to all the schools from all around the state that try their
best but always come up short. They are not the losers. Those who
choose not to compete (or give reasons as to why they won't compete) are
One curse that the Philadelphia sports scene seems to have is a constant
whining about why their teams don't do well (or can't do well - take
your choice). It's time we just develop some backbone and make the
necessary steps, even if they are indeed painful to some. Then let's
see what the real excuses are.
-- Nelson P Carvalho
I have a few comments on this issue. The first is this move that Paul
Vallas has made is more of a political strategy as he's looking out for
his own rewards instead of the children. These high school athletes
don't have the same resources as most suburban school athletes in all
honestly. What the pub has is football teams. These suburban schools
have football programs. Its a totally different type of game. Here in
the pub the game is more raw and speed is more of the norm as opposed to
the power game used by teams such as CB West, North Penn, Neshaminy and
others. I do feel that the top 5 teams in the pub every year could hold
their own against most of the other PIAA members. But on the other hand
the bottom of the league teams would have their rear ends handed to them
by the worst teams in the Suburban districts. The kids that play for CB
West and the other schools have the weight room open all year round as
where the teams in the pub have to share the school weight facility with
other sports teams therefore are reduced to only maybe 2-3 days in the
My second point is that I believe the only sports in which the pub has a
chance to be a legitimate state contender right away is basketball and
track as most people have stated. These sports are the easiest in making
the transition as they prepare 9 months out of the year. Basketball
tryouts are in October and by November non-league games are in process.
The league championships are in March and in April Summer league teams
are forming so teams have that chemistry and continuity. Track season is
year-round as the competitive teams travel during the off-season for
indoor competition (Gratz, Dobbins, etc...)
Lastly I can honestly say as a true pub fan that this will not last for
too long. How can you take away the thanksgiving game for a state
playoff game in which no one gives you a chance of winning. I can't
imagine not having that old G-Town- King, NE-Central, Frankford-N.
Catholic, or GW-Ryan on thanksgiving. Instead of joining the PIAA I
would've like to seen Mr. Vallas get the public league championship
played at The Lincoln Financial Field, Franklin Field or Villanova
Stadium. I'd also like to see at least 1 night game per week played at
NE. How about renovating stadiums like Olney, Central, Southern-Bok,
MLK, and Washington and placing lights at all game fields so that teams
don't have to end their game early because the referee can't see. Or
invest in having a trainer for every school. Get sponsors to help pay
for all weather tracks at NE, Frankford, Germantown and Bok so that
there are 7 schools have all weather surfaces.
(Ted's note: Anthony has numerous relatives playing FB in The Pub.)
I just want to weigh in with my comments on this issue. I cannot speak for
Mr. Vallas only to provide some insight as to why he would want the Public
League to join the PIAA. I grew up in the Chicago area as did Mr. Vallas.
In the State of Illinois all schools are part of the IHSA. When I was growing
up in Illinois the state tournament was played at the University of Illinois.
We have two divisions based on school enrollment A and AA. The tournament
begins in late February and runs through March with a Regional, Sectional,
Super-Sectional and culminates with an eight team field playing for the
eventual state championship. Because the Chicago city high schools were so
numerous, they have their own tournament that ensures a Chicago school will
advance to the final field of eight (this school could be compared to the
Public League champion).
History has shown that the Chicago schools have not faired any better in the
final tournament than other schools. Since the inception of the two division
formant in 1972, only nine Chicago schools have went on to be win the state
championship. My point here is that the Public League should follow the
IHSA example with Chicago public schools. This will keep the Public League
championship in tack and that champion would automatically advance to the
final field of eight in the PIAA championship.
Also, the Chicago Catholic League schools do not play a separate tournament.
These schools participate in the Regional, Sectional, Super-Sectional
format. I believe that the Philadelphia schools could still have a Catholic
League Championship and send teams to the PIAA tournament. The logistics of
this would have to be worked out. For further in formation on the Illinois
state high school tournament for this link http://www.marchmadness.org/.
-- Art Livingston
(Ted's note: Art's son, Arthur, plays for Judge.)
I must admit, and you Ted can attest to this, I am very rarely in the
middle of controversy. Normally I choose my side and support it
wholeheartedly as can be seen by mnay of my former shananigans on this
website. However the inclusion of Philadelphia schools to the PIAA, has
me torn. First I will start with the leagues I don't know as well, the
Pub and the Inter-Ac. I find it hard to believe that the Inter-Ac would
be able to adhere to the standards of the PIAA due to the fact that a
"number" of athletes have been in high school for five years. I don't
think that is necessarily a bad thing, holding someone back or repeating
a year if you are a transfer, I do however not see the PIAA bending on
As far as the PUB from what I hear not only in your article but from
a number of the athletes and coaches in the PUB, there are a lot of
issues that need to be taken care of. I do find it alarming the number
of kids each year who are not allowed to participate in athletics due to
academics. I also find it a little ridiculous that there is a limit to
the number of coaches, especially in football. With more coaches, there
would be more time to check on academics. I don't feel money is an
issue either because there are a lot of former players and coaches that
would help on a part time basis for very little money (It happens all
over the city in other leagues). As far as being teachers, I know that
my senior year at Judge we had two coaches who were employees of Judge
and one of them was not a teacher.
As far as the Catholic League which I think would compete in most
sports on the state level, I think they should be in the PIAA. I have
heard things in previous e-mails that just didn't make sense to me. Not
caring about a state championship is ridiculous. I know my senior year
we played and should have beat the state champion (Neshaminy) and it is
a game that to this day haunts me. Also Joe Mason, who I know
personally made the coment "If they play multiple sports, they can
pretty much forget about winning a championship, because there are
schools out in the Burbs who practice 12 months out of the year." I
would like to see what my now teammate Joe McCourt would like to say
about that. I feel as if his 99' (I think thats the right year) Roman
team that was PCL champion would have competed in the state football
playoffs and I am confident his Eddie Griffin led basketball team would
have done the same. Also someone made the statement, "I know for a fact
that grades were changed so that certain athletes could play in the
playoffs for sports in the Catholic League." I too find that hard to
believe. I know a number of teachers who could care less in the PCL who
is playing what sport, and as a child of a former PCL teacher I know she
too has failed an athlete. I have to admit that for one of the few
times I disagree with Ted and I would have loved to play for the right
to wear a state championship ring, and I am sick of defending the philly
schools to those "hick town" players as many people spoke of. See
people forget to many athletes there is life after philly sports and
many of those "hicks" become "teammates."
-- Ryan "Goose" Nase
(Ted's note: Goose played FB at Judge and was one of the early movers
and shakers for the site.)
My sons only played high school basketball in The Pub, but Im
convinced that both of them could have held their own against any
suburban players, like they did in AAU ball, and would have loved the
My point is that if they played against those players and got the
STATEWIDE press those games would have generated, they might have gotten
better college offers just by being recognized outside of Philadelphia.
That is the fate of the Philadelphia Public League athlete, no press in
the rest of the state. It hurts with college recruiting and by not
getting Philly players talked about by more people.
Sure it will take a while for some of the other sports to catch with the
rest of the state; but just look how far Prep Charter has come in The
Pub by playing good teams. They are no longer just doormats and in a
few more years they will be a team to be reckoned with on the court.
That will happen to Pub teams too, it will just take time, so why not
start now and stop putting it off until some future date.
It is time the Pub pulled themselves up by their bootstraps!
Take on the PIAA and beat them at their own game. We should never run
from an honest challenge.
-- E. W. Bray
Ted, I love your articles (devoted reader since your days at the
Bulletin) and even though I live in the sticks now (York) I'm a pub guy
- born and raised in Philly, Central High grad, class of '73. And many
things in your article last Tuesday are correct - the PIAA paperwork
will be a pain, one day a pub team will go up north and have everybody
foul out (it's happened to Chester at Williamsport), they'll get killed
in other sports (if Frankford plays Cumberland Valley in Football out
here it's CV by 35), in wrestling Frankford wouldn't win a single bout
vs. Easton etc etc but, here's the thing, it's going to be a good move
to join the PIAA. Why? Here's why...1976 state championship would have
been Gene Banks (as a junior) and West Philly vs. Sam Clancy and 5th
Ave. (the last year before it became Brashear); Kobe's Lower Merion
team and Jameer's Chester teams playing pub teams; the great Gratz
teams (not only Rasheed's team but others) playing outside the city;
and many, many more. Eventually it will become a big deal for the kids
to win states, and it should - it happened in football, eventually (like
now) it's become bigger to win states than your district. Are there
downsides in football? Sure, we've lost traditional Thanksgiving games
but we now have a real state football championship. It'll be the same
with the Public League - there will be downsides, but we'll have a real
state championship in basketball (except for the Catholic league) and
that's worth all the downsides. Besides, every other state has
inclusive state championships. It hasn't killled Camden's program to be
part of the NJSIAA. Give it time - it's the right thing, and long
overdue and the Public League will be better off in the long run, and
it's great for the fans.
I disagree with the fact that pub and catholic league schools shouldn't
be added to the PIAA. I am tired of seeing schools like Pennsbury win
divisions and get seeded high in the state tournament. I have seen
Pennsbury and other SOL schools play Conwell-Egan(who rountinely gets
overmatched in catholic league basketball games) a few times over the
past couple years and the games are the games are always competitive and
close. Let teams like Dougherty and Gratz play for the right to be the
true state champ. That goes for baseball too, PIAA teams are always way
overrated and routinely loose to Catholic league teams.
As a grad of Engineering & Science, I can't help but
be excited at the prospect of following my Engineers
each spring as they play for a state basketball title.
Each season they put out a good team, only to be KO'd
by a team from a school that has four or five times as
many students. I noticed on the PIAA website that E&S
will be a Class AA school, so they finally will get a
chance to compete on a stage with schools of similar
size. How many state titles would E&S have racked up
by now had Lynn Greer's and John Cox's teams been able
to play for a Class AA state title??
My name is Bryan Adamson, Public league Football, Swimming, and Baseball
player for Northeast High School and I am proud of it. Let it be known
that Northeast High school has given me superior learning skills of life
and has allowed me to become a part of the next level-College. I was an
All City player for Northeast High school in Baseball, as well as
All-Pub. The next step has seem to be excluding me from their recruiting
process, I have made numerous calls and sent emails to numerous coaches
and have not seen one drop of intrest. The Philadelphia School District
was actually harder on its students then the PIAA, you had to maintain
higher grades to play in the public leauge then the PIAA. The PIAA will
showcase some of the very good underclassmens that are under me this
year on my baseball team such as Brandon O'Malley and Chris Steinke-
they will benefit from playing in the regionals, and the states. It will
not benefit most teams but the teams that generally d! o make the most
money from Football. Frankford, Northeast, Washington, Central will
always be good because of the schools attendance numbers and their
particpation percentages. The PIAA is a chance for playersf rom the pub
who can actually have a chance to be somebody to not work harder then
the same type of player who has the same skills but supposedly plays in
different league- that player will be recruited while as someone like me
who hasn't played in the PIAA will not.- An example would be Dan Paluch
who is now playing for LaSalle- an extradionary player for North
Catholic had to walk on at LaSalle U. No cost for the school, but he has
to put out a lot of money. I wish a lot of luck to the opposing teams
this year in the public leauge and a lot of luck to them for next year.
Nothing is impossible, The Public Leauge gets better every year, we can
achieve anything if we work together.
Thanks, Bryan Adamson