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Saturday, July 15, 2017: Timon hires Licata, loses basketball coach

   Leading off today: The other shoe dropped at Bishop Timon-St. Jude on Friday ... and more of the proverbial wardrobe could soon be tumbling to the floor of the walk-in closet along with it.

   In a sequence of events that qualifies as stunning by high school standards, the besieged Buffalo Catholic school announced the hiring of an interim principal, confirmed the departure of its basketball coach and ended the day with a late-night announcement that an all-time Section 6 great in football and basketball was coming aboard as the new athletic director and varsity football coach -- assuming the school is able to field a team.

   Some background:

   On June 24, school administrators confirmed they had decided not to renew the contract of Principal Michele Battin and that Charlie Comerford had resigned as AD and football coach at least in part as a sign of support for Battin. Boys basketball coach Des Randall denied that he had also resigned but at the same time could not commit to returning for the 2017-18 season.

   Now, fast-forward to Friday's all-Timon, all-the-time news cycle:

    • The school announced the appointment of Linda Cimusz as interim principal. Cimusz previously held high-level positions in the Williamsville, Rochester and Buffalo school districts.

    • Randall posted on social media that he stepped down after two seasons, indicating that the decision was unrelated to Cimusz's hiring and that the school wanted him to remain as coach.

   Randall had been supportive of Battin and Comerford, who had brought him over after a stint as a Canisius High assistant.

   "I'm not sure what direction they're going to replace them so those are the two big things that weighed on me to make this decision," Randall said. "For what I want to do, being able to run the program and do things the way I need to do them to be successful ... I just felt the best decision was to move on."

   Randall was 31-19 in his two seasons at Timon and was poised for an upcoming season that at one time looked promising. However, prospects dimmed even more Friday as Randall confirmed to The Buffalo News that his younger brother Juston Johnson, also a top football player, will transfer out of Timon before the start of his junior year.

    • Shortly before midnight, the school sent out a news release confirming that Joe Licata had been hired as the AD and head football coach. had begun reporting several hours earlier that the move was expected to be announced next week, and the New York State Sportswriters Association confirmed it through a source literally moments before Timon posted the announcement on its website.

   Licata, 24, was a football and basketball star at Williamsville South who went on to play quarterback at the University at Buffalo, throwing for more than 9,000 career yards. Though he has limited on-field supervisory experience, currently running skills camp for Western New York football players, Licata does not have any background as an athletic administrator at a time when Timon's program is indisputably in crisis.

   On the other hand, his father Gil, now the principal at Starpoint, was in his 20s when he was hired as AD and basketball coach during the 1980s at Turner/Carroll, The Buffalo News noted.

   "I'm very lucky I have a great support system with people willing to help me," Licata told the paper. "I'm not doing this alone. I know I have people in my corner who want to see Timon succeed."

   Said former Timon board chairman Ted Overdorf, who was part of the search committee: "We're very excited to have him. He's a terrific young man. He presents himself very well."

   The school's announcement said Licata has "hit the ground running" and plans to reach out to parents and athletes at the school to lay out a road map the Tigers' sports programs.

   It's increasingly likely that road map will not include a varsity football team in 2017. For starters, early-season road games against Odessa (Texas) Permian, Buford (Ga.) and Toledo (Ohio) Catholic Central have been canceled.


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  •    In addition, defections were already rampant between the time Comerford resigned and Friday's disclosure that Johnson won't return.

       Second-team all-state lineman Jeremiah Sanders, whose late transfer to Timon last year after winning a NYSPHSAA state crown infuriated public-school coaches, has returned to South Park for his senior year. Quarterback Matt Myers, who recently committed to UB, is all but certain to transfer to West Seneca West according to multiple sources.

       "I love Matt," Licata said. "I think he's the best quarterback in Western New York. I would love to work with him but he has to do what's best for him and his family." reported two unidentified Timon linemen are making the move to South Park with Sanders. A source told the NYSSWA that at least four other players are destined for Cardinal O'Hara, and a source familiar with the league said other Monsignor Martin Athletic Association schools are also receiving transfer inquiries.

       The biggest losers in the Timon implosion are students in the Class of 2018. Under league rules, they will be ineligible to play as seniors if the public school in their home town offers their sport but they opt instead to transfer to another Monsignor Martin school. That leaves them to stick it out at Timon or to enroll in the public school in their home town.

       Underclassmen rate a close second on the list of those negatively affected. Timon has not come out and said there will be no varsity football this fall, but multiple sources familiar with their predicament said that fielding even a junior varsity could be challenging unless Licata stages a huge rally when he begins meeting with families on Monday.

       That's because the incoming freshman class is smallish and an inordinate number of members of the Class of 2020 went on the dean's injury list last month -- i.e., asked to leave Timon due to poor grades.

       There may be a trickle-down effect that affects the ability of JV soccer and other fall sports (volleyball and cross country) to piece together rosters.

       Undoubtedly, more later: I'd already noted this week that Dylan McDuffie, who rushed for 1,255 yards and 14 touchdowns for St. Francis last fall, will return to Sweet Home for his senior season.

       While working on the Timon situation Friday and Saturday, I picked up information some other top football talent in the Buffalo area is also likely to be on the move. I'm confident in everything above that I've either gathered myself or summarized from other media, but I want to take a day or two to try confirming these other moves before listing them here.

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