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Friday, Jan. 12, 2018: Coaches associations sue Section 1

   Leading off today: A pair of basketball coaches associations filed a lawsuit against Section 1's Executive Committee on Friday, alleging that the decision to move postseason games out of the Westchester County Center was illegal and should be nullified, The Journal News reported.

   The lawsuit referred to Section 1 as "a dysfunctional organization which operates in the dark through a culture of fear and intimidation." It accuses Section 1 Executive Director Jennifer Simmons, President James Mackin and the Executive Committee of being "motivated to engage in their illegal, arbitrary and capricious conduct by their institutional greed to enhance the profits of Section One, Inc., at the expense of the taxpayers of Westchester County and the hopes and dreams of Section One student-athletes to compete in the iconic County Center."

   The lawsuit is an escalation of the dispute that started late last year with the decision to move boys and girls sectional semifinals and finals out of the Westchester County Center. Section 1 opted to move semifinals for next month's tournament to neutral sites and play the finals at Pace University as a cost-saving measure.

   Players, coaches and even some school administrators have voiced opposition to the move to Pace's smaller venue, citing the convenience of the WCC and the tradition of playing big games there.

   The lawsuit filed in Westchester County's Supreme Court outlines what the coaches believe was a purposeful breakdown in process that violated Section 1's constitution, the paper reported.

   A key component of the lawsuit appears to be the contention that the Athletic Council did not recommend Pace as host for the finals and had no idea that university was under consideration. The Section 1 constitution grants the Athletic Council responsibility for "final approval of each sports coordinator's plans for tournaments and section sponsors events."

   Analysis: The Journal News produced a sidebar highlighting key charges levied in the lawsuit.

   Easily the most serious accusation is the one asserting "the defendants, led by defendants Simmons and Mackin, intentionally withheld information from and deceived members of the Athletic Council regarding the status of negotiations with the county center."

   It's one thing to call the section's leaders incapable or even incompetent, but quite another to accuse them of deceit. Regardless of how the lawsuit plays out, this is how long-standing relationships get put on permanent hiatus.

    • I'm not a lawyer, nor do I intend to play one online, but my best guess at the moment is that the Section 1 defense if this thing actually reaches court is to argue that the boys and girls basketball coaches associations lack standing in the matter.


   Although the organization presidents Anthony Nicodemo (Yonkers Saunders boys) and Dan Ricci (Ossining girls) are both coaches, I'm not sure if that's enough to give them standing as plaintiffs to challenge the section on procedural grounds. It would seem to me that a suit going down that path would have to come from a school or league in the section since they are the foundation of the Athletic Council, which allegedly was bypassed in the decision-making process.

    • If the suit is allowed to go forward, the preliminary battles ought to be interesting. Editorials in The Journal News last month accused the section, which operates as a unit of BOCES, of operating in secretive fashion. I can envision Section 1 getting hit with a fresh batch of FOIL requests by media and other observers ahead of the trial. I can also envision the section continuing to argue that it is not an actual government agency and is not subject to Freedom of Information Act inquiries.

   Whatever the decision, it will have implications for other sections in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

   Lacrosse standout dies: Allison Kidney, a goalie who helped Warwick to a Section 9 girls Class B lacrosse championship last spring as a sophomore, died last Saturday at the age of 16.

   "Allison was a great teammate on the Warwick girls JV and varsity lacrosse teams," coach Denis O'Connor said.

   College decisions: Staten Island Academy junior basketball guard Emily LaPointe has committed to Manhattan.

   Long Island Lutheran senior Donatas Kupsas will continue his basketball career at Weber State. The forward is averaging 11 points and 10 rebounds this season.

   More reading: I was a little late getting started, but I've been adding important dates for high school sports to my 2018 calendar. The inaugural NYSPHSAA dual-meet wrestling championships set for Jan. 27 have made the list.

   Read my weekly column on to see what else is there.

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