By Rod Frisco
For The Daily Item
The PIAA scholastic sports season is abotu a month old and already transfers and disqualifications have hogged the headlines.
While it's not unusual for transfer and eligibility cases to be heard at either the district or state level in September -- the vast majority of transfers occur in the summer months -- two cases in particular have attracted a lot of attention.
The first was the dual case of Boise Ross and Petey Hernandez, both football players who decided to transfer from Pius X High School near Bangor to separate Bethlehem School District schools, Ross to Liberty and Hernandez to Freedom.
The two players were starters last year for Pius X -- Ross was a Class A all-state wide receiver -- and were among at least five football players that left the school. Ross and Hernandez were denied football eligibility at their respective receiving schools following a late August hearing by District 11.
The reason: Pius X had refused to sign the PIAA's Athletic Transfer Waiver form, effectively challenging their transfers on the basis of PIAA's nebulous "athletic intent" rule.
But just two days after the District 11 ruling, Pius X suddenly -- and to this day, inexplicably -- dropped its opposition to the two transfers. District 11 immediately reversed its previous decision and granted Ross and Hernandez immediate eligibility.
Then, just a week later, one of the state's top basketball players last season, Geno Thorpe, announced that he was transferring back to Shaler, where he played the last two seasons, from West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Fla. Thorpe left Shaler, where he lived with his mother, after his junior year to live with his father in Florida.
West Oaks Academy is a private school that has had significant success on the court and has produced a number of Division I scholarship players.
Thorpe's return to Shaler currently leaves him in eligibility limbo. Because his transfer back to Shaler is his second transfer within a year, by PIAA rule he must submit paperwork to District 7 explaining the transfer and requesting a waiver from the rule that prohibits same-year transfers.
WPIAL executive director Tim O'Malley said the WPIAL has not received the paperwork yet, and the district cannot make any determination on Thorpe's eligibility for the 2012-2013 season until that step is completed.
O'Malley emphasized, critically, that Thorpe is neither eligible nor ineligible at this moment. His status depends entirely on the reasons that Thorpe decided to leave Florida.
The Thorpe matter will be decided just a few weeks after the publication of an article by Pittsburgh Post-Gazette high school sports writer Mike White showed that of 38 cases in which the WPIAL ruled an athlete ineligible in the past four years, 30 of those rulings have been overturned at the PIAA level.
Those cases have helped to re-ignite the never-ending argument over the PIAA's transfer and eligibility rules and whether its central thesis -- that transfers based on athletic reasons are prohibited -- is correct. That's an issue that has never and will never go away, and it might never be resolved.
But the PIAA has bigger issue on its hands: the surprising number of disqualifications that have already occurred in the 2012-2013 school year.
PIAA executive director Dr. Robert Lombardi reported on his new weekly website post than less than two full weeks into the school year, more than 100 athletes, mostly in soccer and football, have been disqualified from an athletic contest for unsportsmanlike conduct. That pace didn't change during the third week, according to an exasperated Lombardi.
Lombardi has hinted that he might seek a stronger penalty for unsportsmanlike disqualifications from the Board of Directors, although he did not specify what the increased penalty might entail. Currently, players who are ejected from a contest are ineligible for their next contest.
MILESTONES: New Castle won its 700th football game with a 48-14 triumph over Riverside on Sept. 7, becoming the fifth Pennsylvania team to reach the 700-win mark. Mount Carmel (which has more than 800 wins and is fifth in the nation), Easton, Berwick and Steelton/Steelton-Highspire are the other state programs with at least 700 wins.
Cumberland Valley football coach Tim Rimpfel became the 11th Pennsylvania coach to reach the 300-win mark with a season-opening 44-10 victory over Red Lion. Rimpfel has been a head coach at Trinity High School in Camp Hill and Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg as well as Cumberland Valley.
Crestwood field hockey head coach Elvetta Gemski became just the third state field hockey coach to win 600 games when the Comets defeated Mifflin County 7-0 on Sept. 8. Gemski, whose teams have won four PIAA championships and 18 District 2 championships, joins Emmaus' Sue Butz-Stavin and Lower Dauphin's Linda Kreiser as the Pennsylvania coaches with more than 600 career wins.
Valley High School's girls' soccer team ended a 96-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over St. Joseph on Sept. 14. It was Valley's first girls' soccer victory since 2006.