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RECRUITING PRACTICES DOMINATE SECTION VI DEBATE

Recruiting practices dominated a discussion at Wednesday's Cleveland Hill School Board meeting over Catholic high schools' bid to gain admittance to the Section VI Public School Athletic Association.

Cleveland Hill varsity basketball coach Brian Feretti told the board and representatives of the Monsignor Martin Association that his son once was offered a full athletic scholarship as a recruiting bid.

Tuition at area Catholic high schools ranges from $3,000 to $5,000 at St. Joseph Collegiate Institute, according to Catholic school officials.

"I hate to say this because I love all of you people," said Feretti. "But you have a lot of cleaning up to do before this could work."

Feretti, whose children attend Christ the King School and Amherst Central High School would not say which school made the offer, saying it was a policy problem.

After defeating the amendment last year, public school officials will vote again this fall on whether to allow Catholic high schools into Section VI state-level athletic competition.

The comments followed an intense discussion between the board and several representatives of the Monsignor Martin Association concerning rumors about recruiting practices. All agreed that the fear among public schools that private schools could gain an unfair competitive edge by recruiting superior athletes is the biggest block to letting Catholic schools into Section VI.

"Did it happen many years ago?" asked Sister Maria Peres, athletic director for the Monsignor Martin Association. "Sure it happened. It happened on all sides."

Feretti also charged that some Catholic school coaches held regular practices from four to six days a week throughout the summer in violation of state standards. "Your own people are going crazy against each other out there."

Asking Feretti to give her specifics, Sister Peres emphasized that the Monsignor Martin Association closely monitors and sanctions any abuses.

Some board members expressed concerns about inequities in the sizes of the different schools playing against each other. Physical and competitive mismatches would be remedies through careful placement of teams in various divisions, according to Sister Peres.

Another question raised was whether allowing Catholic schools into Section VI would be an enticement to pull top athletes out of smaller districts once the competition barrier was gone.

Currently, only four dioceses in the state, including the Diocese of Buffalo, do not participate in sectional competition. This severely limits competition with other Catholic schools, Sister Peres said.

"We come to the end of the season when all our neighbors go on to further challenges, and we have to stop," she added.

On the admittance proposition, each district gets three votes -- the superintendent, athletic director and high school principal. All three must agree for a district yes vote. Cleveland Hill officials said they will review the matter further before determining their position.

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