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Wednesday, June 28, 2017: Cruickshank is 3rd Erasmus Hall star to pick Big Ten

   Leading off today: Aron Cruickshank became the third Erasmus Hall rising senior in two weeks to commit to a Big Ten football program when he announced Tuesday that he will enroll at Wisconsin.

   Cruickshank is a run-first quarterback who was recruited as a receiver. His choice came down to the Badgers and Penn State after also being offered by Michigan, Ohio State and Virginia and several other major programs.

   Previously this month, offensive lineman Matt Jones picked Ohio State and defensive back Kessawn Abraham committed to Rutgers.

   Cruickshank ran for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns and threw for another 12 touchdowns as a junior to earn sixth-team all-state in Class AA as an all-purpose player by the New York State Sportswriters Association. He was third in Division I and fourth in the Federation portion of the long jump at this month's state track and field championships after placing second at the indoor meet.

   The family business: Utica College offensive coordinator Jim Kramer, 36, was appointed last week as the football coach at New Hartford.

   Kramer was 19-17 as the head coach at Schenectady for four seasons before joining the Utica College staff. He replaces Kyle Hutchinson, 5-11 in two seasons, as the New Hartford coach and will teach physical education in the district.

   "It's in my blood to be a head coach," he told The Observer-Dispatch.

   Kramer grew up the son of a coach, and two of his three younger brothers are coaches -- Rob Kramer is offensive coordinator for the St. John Fisher College football team and Ryan Kramer just guided Oneida's baseball team to its first Section 3 championship. Their sister, Katie Nestler, is the girls basketball coach at Oneida.

   "Jim's a winner, just a guy you would want to play for," Utica College head coach Blaise Faggiano said.

   Also on the move: Carrie Owens, who had a 34-8 record and a Section 6 championship in two seasons at Cleveland Hill, is the new girls basketball coach at Sacred Heart Academy in the Monsignor Martin Association.

   Debbie Laux recently retired after 17 seasons at Sacred Heart. The longtime assistant to Sister Maria Pares was on leave last season when the Sharks were coached by Jack Coppola.

    • Vinny Mascia has retired as the East Meadow football coach, freeing him up to watch his son Matt play on the offensive line at the University of New Hampshire.

   Mascia, who played at East Meadow in 1978, started his coaching career as a defensive coordinator at Clarke High. He spent four years there and four years as an East Meadow assistant coach before five years on his brother Tony's staff at Holy Trinity, where he became head coach for two seasons. He was an East Meadow assistant for two seasons before being name head coach in 1998.    Mascia had a 104-68 record in 19 at East Meadow, winning a pair of Nassau Conference I titles.

   East Meadow JV coach Doug Bange will move up to run the varsity.

    • Jenn Sykes is likely to resurface as a coach in another school district early last month, having resigned as the girls varsity lacrosse coach and modified field hockey coach at Shenendehowa.

   Sykes, the lacrosse coach for eight seasons, said she had hoped to surrender only her field hockey duties at Shenendehowa but was unable to work out a deal with AD Chris Culnan.

   "Unfortunately, the Shen teaching contract states that a PE teacher can be assigned up to two sports and, with all honesty, I knew that I could no longer maintain the effort required to do both jobs well," Sykes told

   Hockey experiment: The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League is expected to change its overtime format for breaking ties.

   The PIHL proposal calls for an overtime format that begins with a three-minute period featuring three skaters per team. If no one scores, the teams will go to a three-skater shootout. The shootout would go to sudden death if still tied after three rounds.


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  •    The standard problem: In assessing Mike Oliva's forced departure as the football and baseball coach at Pearl River last week, Vincent Mercogliano made an important point in as clear a fashion as I've ever seen.

       Noting Oliva does not appear to have made any egregious mistakes or violated any school policies and that students, parents and residents have expressed their disappointment at the firing, The Journal News reporter wrote that an explanation has yet to come, "which means the questions will persist and play out in the court of public opinion."

       And then this:

       "In a letter to the community, superintendent Marco Pochintesta wrote, 'While we understand that the school community has questions regarding this decision, the district refrains from commenting on personnel matters.'

       "We should have known.

       "Those same sentiments were echoed by athletic director Todd Santabarbara in an e-mail to The Journal News/, and it's a typical response in these types of situations. Pochintesta listed his reasons for withholding an explanation, which included 'respect for the privacy rights of the employee ... (and) fiscal responsibility to the community to minimize potential litigation expenses.'

       "In response to Pochintesta's concern about Oliva's privacy, the former coach has taken the opposite approach. He has requested that the motive for his dismissal to be made public to clear his name.

       "'I want to make sure that people know there is no hidden scandal or incident or bullying,' he said. 'I'll say it right now. This is about me and (Santabarbara) not seeing eye-to-eye on certain things. That's it.'

       "As for the liability concerns, that's a go-to line for many administrators in these uncomfortable circumstances. But is it warranted?

       "'It is common to hear comments indicating that so-called personnel matters are confidential,' said Bob Freeman, the executive director for the New York State Committee on Open Government. "In general, there is no law that requires confidentiality. In this kind of situation when a popular employee has been dismissed with no explanation, in my opinion, school officials are treating their constituents with disrespect.'"

       The purported desire by school administrators to protect the privacy of the fired employee serves to perpetuate a suspicion that he or she may have done something seriously wrong, potentially making the coach or teacher damaged goods in the eyes of prospective future employees and perhaps even in the eyes of friends and neighbors.

       Referencing other recent controversial departures, Mercogliano wrote: "[W]hen taxpayers feel slighted and student-athletes are let down, it's the decision-makers who look shady."

       Next blog: The New York State Education Department has really ticked me off this week, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the hearings regarding whether former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino should be removed from the school board in Buffalo.

       I'll pull together some thoughts for a blog that will be mostly "inside baseball" stuff of interest to school administrators but potentially also affects athletes and their families.

       Extra points: Long Island Lutheran low-post player Essam Mostafa has made the roster of Egypt's under-19 national men's basketball team.

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