I know I am probably not going to make any friends by writing this, but I think the recent proposal to form or restructure existing high schools around sports, thus making a school geared strictly for athletes, is a bad idea headed for disaster.
The proposed plan would eliminate transfer waivers, the magic tickets that allow athletes to transfer from one school to another without having to sit out a year. Eliminating the need for waivers would allow student-athletes, or should I say athlete-students, to transfer from one school to another at will.
I know kids dont sign four-year contracts with no-trade clauses, but this can certainly open the door for some absolutely absurd wheeling and dealing and nearly destroy all hints of a competitive citywide league in any sport.
Take basketball for instance. As it stands today, there are already a few select schools considered every year to be basketball powers and not just because the schools are located in talent-rich areas. Players are recruited from one school to another every year, students and parents fib as to the reason for the transfer, and the rich program gets richer while the school and coach that dont cheat get screwed.
Thats the nature of the beast as it is now.
The only new wrinkle in this annual tradition is that the Public School Athletic League, which recently went through a thorough overhaul and is actually starting to run like an ordinary city agency (I know, the sarcasm is thick), is actually beginning to enforce some of its rules.
Lincoln High School coach Dwayne Tiny Morton has been suspended from coaching his team, ranked No. 2 in the city for the upcoming PSAL boys varsity playoffs, for allegedly recruiting players and other assorted no-nos. He is not the first coach of a citywide athletic power to be called into question during the past school year and he will likely not be the last, not unless there are changes in the near future.
Whether these allegations are true is only a footnote in this tale of the PSAL and its coaches trying to reform the Board of Education by making sports the dominant reason some students go to school at all.
The funny thing is, they already do. I would wager the majority of the top athletes in the city go to school to play sports and possibly earn that all-important scholarship to a Division I school, where, if they are lucky, they can concentrate solely on athletics some more.
For the very few, a career in pro sports awaits while the others, if they bothered to crack a book during these eight years or so of higher education, are left to focus their pursuits on other things, whatever they may be.
This idea would allow those coaches who currently break the rules by recruiting to try and get star athletes into their schools without the worry of some just cause for it. As it stands now, a transfer student needs a reason, like financial, safety, change of address or a specific academic interest not offered by their zoned school. This proposed rule would simply allow a student to say, I want to play basketball there because my zoned schools team stinks.
Think about the imbalance of power, the ever widening gulf between schools geared toward athletics and schools geared toward academics. Do you think a basketball game between Lincoln and Townsend Harris would be a good thing then? I mean, its not even a competitive game now no offense to the Hawks.
And what about the idea that the city sets up high schools strictly for sports-minded kids, much like Magnet schools are geared toward certain academic pursuits. Imagine your local high school team competing against a school whose only reason for existence in the first place was for kids to play basketball, a school that has all the best players, the best coaches and teaches classes based on sports-related topics. I think not.
In a perfect world there would be no such need for anything like this at all. Kids would never need a safety transfer, coaches would not recruit and all students would go to schools in their own zoned areas. That would be fair and logical.
Actually, thats the way it is supposed to be, the kind of thing the city should be trying to recapture, not further segregating jocks from actual students, narrowing their views of the world even more.
I can say the same of schools that focus on arts, music, science, business or any program that denies a student the full spectrum of opportunity.
I could care less that coaches are up in arms about the PSAL and Board of Ed for what they see as an antiquated system, proposing only that which can benefit themselves in the long run.
Creating sports-only high schools and eliminating the transfer waiver are bad ideas. They will create an imbalance in talent throughout the city, produce even more corruption and, more importantly, take the emphasis off academics even more, if thats possible.
I only hope this idea goes the way of the do-do bird and quickly. Let the PSAL clamp down, punish those that break the rules and try to restore some sanity to the city high school sports landscape because it is spiraling out of control.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.
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