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Friday, Aug. 23, 2019: South Seneca/Romulus drops varsity football

   Editor's note: This blog was updated at 12:40 p.m. on Friday to update with information that Newark is remaining in 11-man football.

   Leading off today: Another day, another slimming down of the New York high school football ranks.

   South Seneca/Romulus will not play varsity football this year, the Finger Lakes Times reported .

   South Seneca/Romulus was expected to face a challenging situation this season after Trumansburg opted to withdraw from the Tri-Town merger this spring in order to field an eight-man program by itself. However, turnout for the start of practice as too low to even entertain shifting gears to play eight-man ball.

   "It is always devastating to cut a program," South Seneca AD Heather Mott said. "The participation rate across the board in high school athletics is way down. It will leave an impact but it's also a harsh reality check of the downward spiral that we are witnessing of lack of student engagement across extracurricular activities, i.e. athletics in this case."

   South Seneca/Romulus will field a Modified A team this fall. If the combined program operates at the varsity level in 2020 it likely will be in eight-man football.

   The newspaper also reported that fellow Section 5 school Newark is converting to eight-man football for the upcoming season. However, that does not appear to be the case despite discussions on the topic apparently having taken place recently. A move to eight-man by Newark would be more than a little surprising since the Reds are a mid-sized Class B program with a BEDS number of 463.

   On Wednesday, Maple Grove in Section 6 switched to eight-man football. With the Romulus/South Seneca development, Clymer/Sherman/Panama will now open its season against Geneseo/Mount Morris. More scheduling dominoes will fall, but here's what the NYSSWA's Steve Grandin has pulled together for the list of 11-man teams with byes at the moment:

   Week 1 -- Jamesville-DeWitt (3), Penfield (5), Wyandanch (11), Boys & Girls (PSAL), Campus Magnet (PSAL), Rye Country Day (AIS).

   Week 2 -- Dobbs Ferry (1), Fulton (3), Edison Tech (5), Red Jacket (5), Cassadaga Valley/Falconer (6), Southampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson (11).

   Week 3 -- Woodlands (1), Oswego (3), Eastridge (5), Cattaraugus-Little Valley (6), Newburgh Free Academy (9), John Glenn (11), Fordham Prep (CHS).

   Week 4 -- Binghamton (4), Cuba-Rushford (5), Randolph (6), Greenport/Southold/Mattituck (11), St. Dominic (CHS), St. Mary's (MMA), Dalton (AIS).

   Week 5 -- Valhalla (1), Bolivar-Richburg (5), Franklinville/Ellicottville (6), Babylon (11), Mount Sinai (11), Shoreham-Wading River (11), Bishop Timon-St. Jude (MMA), Dalton (AIS).

   Week 6 -- Ardsley (1), Byram Hills (1), Woodlands (1), Clyde-Savannah (5), Salamanca (6), Bayport-Blue Point (11), Xavier (CHS), St. Mary's (MMA).

   Week 7 -- Canisteo-Greenwood (5), Edison Tech (5), Chester (9), Center Moriches (11), Nazareth (CHS), Horace Mann (AIS).

   Week 8 -- Port Jefferson (11), Xaverian (CHS), Dalton (AIS).

   Week 9 -- Hampton Bays (11), Sherman (6).

   Big lift for Wyandanch: Wyandanch has landed a $150,000 grant from the Suffolk Police Department to help fund the school district's sports programs, County Executive Steve Bellone announced Thursday.

   Bellone said the money will come from a $250,000 state grant awarded to Suffolk police in July to fight gangs.


   "Fighting gangs through law enforcement is not enough," Bellone said. "We have to provide programs and outlets for young people that keep them engaged, energized, active and keeps them moving in the right direction. That's what high school sports does."

   Bellone said he will have to call an emergency meeting of the county's waiver committee to approve shifting the money to the school district. Funding for Wyandanch's sports programs was cut in the $69 million contingency budget the district adopted in June after voters failed to pass two budget proposals. Both rejected budgets would have raised taxes beyond the state's allowable cap -- the first by more than 40 percent, the second by 20 percent, Newsday reported.

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   Wyandanch had previously raised about $50,000 in donations toward an initial goal of $300,000 to fund sports for the 2019-20 school year. Reaching $350,000 would allow the district to operate its program at the same levels as a year ago.

   Steve Castleton, a local philanthropist who attended the news conference, said he is donating $10,000 and reaching out to other community leaders to ask for their donations.

   Opinion: I'm generally all for doing whatever can be done for keeping a school sports program intact, but the $150,000 allocation is troubling.

   The involved parties can categorize the money as coming from a state grant, but the reality is that it comes from taxpayers across the entire state -- people like you and me who are already on the hook for school taxes in our own districts each year. And though keeping more kids off the street probably in a sense does help fight gangs, I'm pretty sure that's not what the state program had in mind. Rather, the money should be going to more cops on the street and counselors in schools and juvenile facilities.

   State senators and assemblymen have pulled similar moves in the past, dipping into "member items" funding to help school sports programs in a bind, and I called them out for doing it. Even if it helps out a financially disadvantaged district -- and Wyandanch is nothing like what many of us north of New York City perceive most Long Island communities to be -- it sets a very dangerous precedent for when similar financial crunches inevitably crop up down the road.

   Landing on her feet: Jessica Paden has been hired as an assistant women's basketball coach at SUNY New Paltz. That comes on the heels of a surprise decision this summer at Hyde Park FDR to let her go after leading the girls basketball team to a Section 9 championship -- its first since 1987.

   "I was shocked,” said Paden, who coached FDR to a first-round win in the NYSPHSAA Class A tournament in her only season at the helm after four with the JVs. "I was told about a month ago that I wasn't being brought back."

   Paden said she was told she ran afoul of New York State Education Department rules by allowing guests who weren't certified coaches to visit practices and instruct players.

   FDR athletic director Thomas Cunningham confirmed that Paden was not retained but declined to elaborate. Paden said the guest issue was never raised until her performance review this summer.

   "I put my heart and soul into the program for five years," Paden said. "It's pretty tough to have it end like this, and I did get emotional. But I'm happy about the time I had there and the bonds with those girls will last a lifetime. The run we had last season, I'm very proud of that."

   At New Paltz, she will be reunited with assistant Darren Jackson, who coached Paden on the FDR junior varsity and at Dutchess Community College.

   New Paltz went 25-5 last season and reached the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

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