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Wednesday, May 2, 2018: N.J. coach's allegation makes national headlines

   Leading off today: A fired New Jersey high school football coach alleges he was asked to "get more white players on the field" and says he was fired because of the number black athletes on his team.

   Camden Catholic history teacher Nick Strom, who coached football and golf, says school president Mary Whipkey and principal Heather Crisci told him last week his teaching contract is not being renewed for next year. On Monday, he reported being dismissed from his coaching positions and placed on paid administrative leave.

   "I think this is from me not conforming with their viewpoints on what they want the student body and the football team to look like," Strom said. "I've tried to build this program into one that's based on kids being of ability, high character and high grades.

   "From day one, the administration told me they did not approve of the ratio of black to white students."

   On Monday, 22 students reportedly walked out of school in support of Strom, whose teams went 34-6 in his four seasons.

   School officials refute Strom's allegations.

   "We do not comment on personnel matters, but it has come to our attention that he has chosen to muddy the reasons for his dismissal with baseless accusations against the school and administration," the school said in a statement. "Any concern about racism or racial insensitivity is taken seriously and investigated fully."

   Whipkey said she outlined the reasons for Strom's dismissal in a letter last month. She cited Strom violating the school's dress code, leaving class early and allowing students to leave his classroom to "hang out in other areas of the school" as factors.

   Meeting prep work: A review of the agenda for Friday's New York State Public High School Athletic Association unearthed a few nuggets:

    • The luck of the draw will give Section 6 the wildcard slot in the boys state hockey tournament for the second straight season next winter. The Buffalo area was the last section in the original random draw to land the extra team but was picked first in the most recent draw that will dictate wildcard berths over the next several seasons.

   It's significant because Sweet Home won the 2018 state championship after losing the Section 6 final and being awarded the wildcard spot.

    • It's tough to tell whether the idea will go anywhere, but the minutes of the most recent Championship Advisory Committee suggest some sentiment for exploring the idea of adding at-large teams to classes in the state football tournament that do not have full eight-team fields.

   I'd suggested back in March that the idea needed to be considered to help correct an imbalance in Class D, but it would also apply to Class AA and possibly Class A.

    • I wish this idea could be fast-tracked, approved and eventually be expanded to add even more athletes, but the Championship Advisory Committee also heard a pitch for state outdoor track chairmen Tom Wells and Dan Doherty to allow for a "super qualifying standard" for the annual state meet.


   They propose a two-year experiment in which competitors who do not finish in the top two of their state qualifier meets to still advance by meeting very demanding standards during the regular season.

   The projected standards are so rigid -- for instance, 1:54.2 in the boys Division I 800 meters and 18-4 in the girls Division I long jump -- that only a handful of athletes would benefit each spring. But those who did qualify under the provision would indisputably be contenders to win.


    • Ice hockey is inching closer to a vote on adding video replay in sectional and state tournament games. The applications would be limited to goal/no-goal decisions and resolving clock issues.

   Alumni news: Then the Clemson women's sprint medley relay won the college Championship of America race at the Penn Relays last weekend, the anchor was none other than freshman Kamryn McIntosh. She ran a 2:03.27 leg as the Tigers won in 3:45.05.

   McIntosh was diagnosed during winter season of 2017 with a congenital heart condition that impaired blood flow. The potentially fatal condition required surgery that ended her scholastic career early in the indoor season.

   "It was a win for my team, my school, the heart surgery and for me," she said.

   Draft thoughts: Research by Tracking Football shows that 29 of the 32 players selected in last week's first round of the 2018 NFL Draft were multi-sport athletes while in high school, starting with quarterback (and former baseball star) Baker Mayfield at No. 1.

   The most popular second sport for the football players was track and field (22), with basketball (16) not far behind. The roster of first-rounders included 14 three-sporters, matching the figure from the previous year's draft.

   In all, 226 of 256 players selected were multi-sporters.

   Coincidentally or otherwise, the NYSPHSAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations released a column last week warning of injury risks associated with specialization.

   Executive directors Bob Gardner of the NFHS and Robert Zayas of the NYSPHSAA wrote that numerous injuries as the scholastic level each year can be traced to overuse, such as elbow injuries in baseball and softball, shoulder injuries for swimmers and stress fractures to soccer players.

   "When student-athletes cross-train, they work different muscle groups and joints which, in fact, results in better overall conditioning," they wrote. "They also develop a new set of athletic skills like hand-eye coordination, balance, endurance, explosion and agility that are transferable to their primary sport."

   Sanctioned: An Alabama soccer team expected to contend for the state Class A championship this month, had its season ended by a violation of the outside competition rule.

   Cullman High was disqualified by the Alabama High School Athletic Association following an investigation. The outside competition rule is in place to keep athletes from overworking themselves, barring them from participating with non-school programs in the same sport during that regular season.

   Cullman won the tournament in 2016 and reached the final in 2017.

   Extra points: Fairport boys basketball coach Scott Fitch will be an assistant on the USA Basketball Men's U17 World Cup Team that will compete June 26-July 8 in Rosario and Sante Fe, Argentina. The 24 players invited to a mid-June training camp that will cut the final roster to 12 include former McQuaid star Isaiah Stewart, who played for La Lumiere in Indiana this past season.

   The core of the final roster is expected to include multiple players who helped win the 2017 FIBA Americas U16 Championship a year ago.

   The United States is 30-0 in the U17 World Cup since the tournament was first held in 2010.

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