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Wings penalized for playing in Dick’s Nationals

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The Wings athletic programs could be shut out of interstate competition next year as punishment for its participation in the Dick’s High School Nationals Tournament — and school officials say the league didn’t warn them about those consequences before the event.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the state’s sanctioning body, will not sanction the Wings’ athletic programs for interstate play in the 2015–16 season, according its executive director Robert Zayas, after the South Shore girls’ basketball team played in the unsanctioned Dick’s Nationals that was broadcast live on ESPN in early April.

“In fairness to other states throughout the country, they are asking me, ‘Do these schools abide by all the rules and regulations of your state?’ ” Zayas said. “By participating in a national event, I can’t in good faith say that they do for a period of one year.”

The ruling means Wings is cleared to play schools from New York State, but teams from outside the Empire State would have to think twice before facing Wings, because those squads could be subject to punishment by their states’ governing bodies.

“That’s up to all the other states,” Zayas said.

Brooklyn-based South Shore was slapped with the same punishment over its girls’ hoops squad’s participation in the Dick’s tournament.

According to the association’s website, interstate competition is when teams, or individuals representing their schools, travel across state lines to participate in competitive sports events, including but not limited to such events as “shoot-outs,” “showcases,” and “round-robin tournaments.”

The ruling could hinder the South Shore’s girls’ and boys’ hoops teams’ ability to travel out of state for events that showcase the kids in front of college coaches in hopes of gaining scholarship offers.

According to Zayas, he hand-delivered a letter outlining the punishment to Public School Athletic League Executive Director Donald Douglas on March 28 — a week before the Dick’s event — during a long talk in the bleachers of the University of Albany’s SEFCU Arena at the state Federation basketball tournament.

The letter stated that the state association would not provide the schools’ athletic programs with interstate sanctioning for the coming season if their teams took the floor for the event, according to the minutes of the organization’s May 1 executive board meeting. The letter also said it would notify the State Education Department of the violation of the Commissioner’s Regulations.

But the PSAL continued to tell its teams to play — and didn’t even tell the schools about the promised consequences.

Wings Athletic Director Michael Salvatore said he was unaware of potential consequences or the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s ruling until being contacted by this paper.

“I asked the PSAL and they said, ‘It’s fine, go ahead,’” Salvatore said. “We were not aware of any possible consequenc­es.”

He said he was disappointed in the league’s lack of communication. Salvatore appreciated the experience the boys got at the Dick’s Nationals, but said had he known what it would have cost there would have been further discussion of whether to let his team attend. The rule will force them to take a second look has who the boys’ basketball team will play next year.

“We will have to reevaluate our schedule and the exposure for our student athletes,” Salvatore said.

South Shore was likewise kept in the dark by the PSAL, according to athletic director Pat Trani.

League officials refer all questions to the city Department of Education, which refused to address the withholding of the state association’s letter.

“Playing in this tournament was a wonderful opportunity for our student athletes,” said department spokesman Jason Fink.

There could be more consequences in store for South Shore, as well. Zayas said his organization has not officially filed a complaint to the state Education Department, but when it does, the department could decide to take further action. Department spokesman Tom Dunn has not returned requests for comment.

The state Federation executive board meets on May 13. The Catholic High School Athletic Association’s Federation board member Tom Murray said in March that the issue of the Dick’s event will likely be brought up again there.

When Boys & Girls and Murry Bergtraum took part in the similar ESPN Rise tournament in 2010, it was also deemed a violation. The CHSAA threatened to have its teams boycott PSAL squads and the other two Federation members considered similar bans, but none of them followed through after a conference call with Douglas. The hope then was that this issue would not come up again.

Both South Shore and Wings played well in their opening-round games of the Dick’s tournament before falling to teams ranked in the top three in the nation by USA Today.

Updated 11:40 am, May 7, 2015
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