PSAL not yet in the clear for sending teams to Dick’s Nationals

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South Shore and Wings Academy playing in the Dick’s High School Nationals Tournament puts them out of bounds, according to the director of the state’s sanctioning athletic association.

Robert Zayas, the executive director of the New York State Public Schools Athletic Association and a member of the state Federation executive board, said his association did not sanction the basketball tournament both city Public Schools Athletic League champions participated in at Christ the King last weekend.

He also said he views it as a second post-season tournament, which would break a separate regulation of the State Commissioner of Education. Zayas believes the South Shore girls’ and Wings boys’ basketball teams clearly broke the state rules.

“Participat­ing in an event like this is a violation of the commissioner’s regs,” Zayas told this paper. “That’s pretty straight and pretty clear cut.”

The tournament did fall within the 22 weeks allotted by the state for the winter season, since city public school teams began play on Nov. 3, 2014, and the city’s Department of Education is standing behind the schools’ decision to participate.

“Playing in this tournament was a wonderful opportunity for our student athletes,” said department spokesman Jason Fink.

The ultimate decision on whether the PSAL is in violation and what action would be taken rest with the state Commissioner of Education. The matter would have to be appealed to the commissioner of Education, either by the department, an outside entity such as the Federation or the Catholic High School Athletic Association. There is no appeal before the commissioner at this time, according to department spokesperson Tom Dunn.

The Federation executive board already had its own discussion about the PSAL’s participation in the Dick’s tournament in a conference call on March 25 before the state Federation tournament.

Zayas and Tom Murray, one of the CHSAA’s Federation board members, both voiced their displeasure to PSAL executive director Donald Douglas during the Federation tournament in Albany. Zayas said the matter came up in a long talk in the bleachers of the University of Albany’s SEFCU Arena on March 28. Murray told Douglas a day later that a lot of people were asking him why their teams weren’t allowed to participate in the national tournament, which was broadcast live on ESPN.

Unlike the PSAL, the other three associations in the Federation told their teams they could not play in the Dick’s tournament. Long Island Lutheran girls’ basketball coach Rich Slater said his club, which went on to win the Federation Class AA title, was asked before South Shore, but he refused because his league feels the season should end with the Federation tournament.

Members of the Christ the King girls’ and boys’ basketball programs watched or worked the event as its public school counterpart played. The Christ the King girls beat South Shore in the Federation tournament.

“How do you explain to kids and parents that you are hosting this tournament, why aren’t you playing?” Christ the King girls’ basketball coach Bob Mackey said. “Now the PSAL is going to play. I really don’t understand that one.”

The Federation could not stop the PSAL teams from competing in the tournament, but it could deliver its own brand of consequences for doing so. In 2011, the CHSAA threatened to have its teams boycott PSAL squads after the league chose to allow its teams to take part in the ESPN Rise Invitational. The other two Federation members considered similar bans, but none of them followed through after a conference call with Douglas. The hope then was that this issue would not come up again.

The Federation executive board has not yet decided if it will take any action this time, according to Murray.

“Nothing [is] final, this will probably carry out until the May meeting, so we can sit down and talk about it,” Murray said.

Both South Shore and Wings played well in their opening-round games before falling to teams ranked in the top three in the nation by USA Today. The Vikings enjoyed staying the night in a Manhattan hotel, coach bus rides to the games, and national television exposure. South Shore coach Anwar Gladden thinks every team in the Federation should be allowed to participate.

“This Dick’s Nationals event is something everybody should get to experience,” Gladden said. “It’s a first class event.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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