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Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2019: Low turnout results in Rensselaer dropping football

   Leading off today: Rensselaer won't field a varsity football team this year because the Section 2 school does not have enough players.

   Superintendent Joe Kardash said 31 players expressed interest in the spring but not nearly enough showed up and then made it through the first week of practice. Just eight players appeared on the first day of practice and then 10 by mid-week. NYSPHSAA rules require a roster of at least 16 players for 11-man football.

   Rensselaer will field a modified team with about 25 players and hope that the district can rebuild interest to either field its own team or find a suitable merger partner.

   Supporters not giving up: Supporters of former baseball coach Marv Matteson spoke at the Iroquois school board meeting Monday in a bid to have him reinstated for the 2020 season. Nine returning players from the varsity baseball team wearing their red ball caps were among those appearing.

   Matteson, 77, was informed in July that his contract would not be renewed for what would have been his 54th year of coaching in Western New York.

   Parent Jeff Bowen said he met with district Superintendent Douglas Scofield and two members of the school board last week but did not get any more clarity on why Matteson's contract was not renewed. He added that he is not optimistic that the district will change its position.

   "I got a very clear feeling that their minds were made up. They weren't going to budge," Bowen said.

   Scofield again said at the meeting that he could not disclose details of the decision not to renew Matteson's contract. Matteson has previously said he believes parents of two JV players left off the team's spring training trip to Florida applied pressure to fire him.

   After coaching baseball, basketball and cross country at Kenmore East for 34 years, Matteson took over the baseball program at Iroquois in 2001.

   Jury clears ex-Webster coach: A jury cleared former Webster Schroeder football and girls basketball coach Kali Watkins on Monday of charges he raped a 14-year-old student.

   Watkins, 42, was accused of first- and second-degree rape stemming from an allegation that he coaxed a girls' junior varsity basketball player into a locker room in January 2017 and raped her.

   Attorneys for Watkins, who was not arrested until January of this year, argued that the girl's allegation made no sense, based on alibis for Watkins and the timeline of the alleged rape. The teen first told a friend months after the alleged assault and then grew angry when the friend wanted to tell adults, according to testimony.


   Watkins was put on administrative leave from his teaching job in November 2017 and fired the following month.

   National participation slips: The annual National Federation of State High School Associations survey released Monday shows the first decline in total participation in high school sports in three decades.

   The NFHS said that the total number for the 2018-19 school year was 7,937,491. The previous year saw a record high participation level of 7,980,886. The decline was the first since the 1988-89 school year. There were no figures

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provided for total enrollment, so it's unclear whether participation dropped on a percentage basis.

   The survey included data from all 50 state high school associations and the District of Columbia). Executive Director Robert Zayas of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association said Tuesday that its data is expected to be available shortly.

   Among the sports registering the largest declines were 11-man football and girls basketball. The girls basketball figure of 399,067 was the lowest for the sport since the 1992-93 school year. Unified and adapted sports programs grew, as did soccer, wrestling, tennis, volleyball and lacrosse.

   "We know from recent surveys that the number of kids involved in youth sports has been declining, and a decline in the number of public school students has been predicted for a number of years, so we knew our 'streak' might end someday," NFHS Executive Director Dr. Karissa Niehoff said. "The data from this year's survey serves as a reminder that we have to work even harder in the coming years to involve more students in these vital programs -- not only athletics but performing arts programs, as well.”"

   Niehoff acknowledged the part of the decline in football participation may be due to safety concerns but noted enhanced safety measures across the country. Left unmentioned was the continuing drain on player pools caused by sports specialization.

   Pricey publicity: When Prosper (Texas) High debuts its new $53 million facility on Friday, the building will be christened Children's Health Stadium.

   The pediatric health care provider acquired naming rights by pledging a total of $2.5 million over 10 years. Children's Health doctors will work on the sideline with Prosper athletic trainers during varsity football games and be available for other sports if requested.

   Prosper will be the only high school in the state with a portable X-ray machine in the stadium and the first to have a sideline ER tent. The school will also have sideline cooling units and hydration stations.

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