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Miguel Rodriguez: Transfer could stifle great public-private matchups

It’s a safe bet Tim Delaney uttered a few choice words in private that expressed his anger and disappointment once he learned that one of his top players, first team All-Western New York lineman and junior Jeremiah Sanders, was leaving South Park for Bishop Timon-St. Jude just four days before the defending state Class A champions’ season opener.

But it’s the seven words the coach unleashed publicly that should be most alarming since it potentially could spark a run on an all-too-familiar trend in Western New York.

“I’ll never play a Catholic school again,” Delaney said Tuesday night, shortly after Sanders had just completed his first practice session with Timon.

That’s concerning because Delaney was one of a handful of young coaches in the area who championed the cause of more nonleague football games between Monsignor Martin teams and Section VI’s top teams.

He didn’t fear losing kids to the Catholics. He feared losing games and wanted to do everything within his power to fully prepare his teams for postseason success.

That’s why South Park has played St. Francis and Canisius the past two years. It’s the same reason the Sparks will play St. Joe’s at 7 p.m. Friday at All High Stadium to open their state title defense.

It’s about playing the best so you too can be the best.

In South Park’s case, it worked last season as the Sparks shocked the state (and ESPN 30-for-30 executives) by snapping Maine-Endwell’s state record 62-game winning streak in the semifinals and then edged a borderline great team in Section I champion and private school Our Lady of Lourdes to become the first Buffalo Public School to win a state football crown.

Playing one of the best local Catholic teams also worked for Jamestown in its 2014 state championship season. Folks remember Strider Field overflowing with more than 6,000 fans as the Red Raiders versus Canisius clash presented a rare Western New York meeting between reigning large-school postseason champions.

In addition to fans loving that, players loved it, too.

It’s a win-win for all as it seemed like, slowly but surely, local high school football was starting to become a little more like basketball and baseball in that the top public and private schools were more willing to play each other under the right circumstances for the sake of great competition.

That progress could be all for naught because of Sanders’ transfer and claims that he was recruited by Timon.

Timon coach and athletic director Charlie Comerford, who denied access to Sanders for an interview, insists his program did nothing wrong and that Sanders reached out to them.

That could very well indeed be the case, but there’s no way one can’t help but think something shady went down, especially with the move coming shortly after Scrimmage Saturday when Sanders suited up for South Park.

Especially with Comerford stating that Timon thought Sanders’ transfer was a done deal back in spring.

Don’t forget the trend in which a number of players developed by public schools who have transferred to private schools prior to their junior seasons. Remember, it’s against Monsignor Martin policy for potential seniors to transfer to a private school just to play a specific sport.

My two cents: That rule isn’t strong enough.

If a student-athlete wants to transfer from public to private, that’s fine (especially if it’s for educational purposes), but they should not be allowed to participate in athletics for a year just like nongraduate students who transfer from one Division I college to another one.

Timon got out of Dodge early Thursday morning, taking the long bus ride (with a stop along the way for a walk-through practice) to Georgia where it faces Buford at 7 p.m. Friday in its season opener.

The Tigers’ first three games, as challenging as they will be, provide a chance for them to showcase talents like quarterback Matt Myers, running back Joe Harrison, receiver/safety Will Lamar and lineman Max Caulfield to southern and Big 10 college recruiters who normally wouldn’t see them play.

That includes Sanders, although as of late Thursday afternoon, the league had yet to announce whether he’d be allowed to play Friday.

“It’s a good time to get out of town because the kids are excited, but there’s no controversy on our end,” Comerford said. “We’ve done everything by the book.”

Just don’t expect the future booking of too many, if any, Catholic versus public school football games following Week Five’s Canisius at Alden contest.


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