It's hard to believe after tonight there are only three more weeks left in the WPIAL football regular season. Below is a story on the eligibility case of talented basketball player Elijah Minnie, but first some predictions on the top games in the WPIAL and City League tonight (last week's record was 7-4):
CITY LEAGUE - University Prep over Allderdice.
WPIAL CLASS AAAA - North Allegheny over Gateway; Hempfield over Altoona; Bethel Park over Penn Hills.
WPIAL CLASS AAA - West Mifflin over Elizabeth Forward; Hampton over Hollidaysburg; Blackhawk over New Castle.
WPIAL CLASS AA - Burrell over Freeport; Shady Side Academy over East Allegheny; Mount Pleasant over Jeannette.
WPIAL CLASS A - Rochester over Neshannock; Bishop Canevin over Fort Cherry.
Elijah Minnie storyThe WPIAL ruled Elijah Minnie ineligible to play basketball this season at Lincoln Park after a hearing with Minnie Wednesday.
While Monessen school officials pushed for the ineligible rulings, Lincoln Park officials are asking why?
“We were absolutely shocked when we found out he was ineligible,” said Lincoln Park coach Mark Javens. “With the material that was presented on both sides, we thought for sure Elijah would be eligible.”
Minnie is a talented 6-foot-8 junior and a possible Division I college prospect. The WPIAL ruled he transferred to Lincoln Park, at least partly, for athletic reasons, which is against WPIAL and PIAA rules.
“Let’s just be honest,” said Monessen coach Joe Salvino. “I don’t think Elijah Minnie woke up one day and said, ‘I think I’m going to Lincoln Park.’ If Lincoln Park didn’t have a basketball team, would Elijah Minnie be going to Lincoln Park? I don’t think so. There has to be an influence on him somewhere.”
This saga isn’t over yet, though, as Minnie and Lincoln Park will appeal the decision to the PIAA. And judging from past cases, I’d say there is a good chance the PIAA will overturn the WPIAL. That’s just what the PIAA seems to do in most cases involving the WPIAL.
This is an interesting case, though. So let’s take a look at it and listen to the comments from some of those involved.
First, the background. Minnie attended Monessen as a freshman but was sent to Summit Academy as a sophomore. Summit Academy, located near Butler, is a school for adjudicated youth. After completing his sentence at Summit, he then enrolled at Lincoln Park this summer.
Lincoln Park is a charter school in Midland. It has a strong basketball program and has been the destination of a number of transfers in recent years. Because Lincoln Park is a charter school, a school district where a student resides must pay Lincoln Park a yearly fee. Monessen is paying about $9,000 to Lincoln Park for Minnie.
The hearing Wednesday was not open to the media or public. But Monessen contends that Minnie is not living in Monessen in the first place. Minnie and Lincoln Park, however, contend that he still, indeed, lives in Monessen. Minnie and Lincoln Park also contend that he should be eligible to play basketball because he decided to attend Lincoln Park to improve his grades and also because he wanted to get away from bad influences in the Monessen area.
Both Javens and Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski said Minnie’s grades have improved dramatically at Lincoln Park – and Summit Academy.
“You look at his track record and what he did academically at Monessen,” Javens said. “He comes here and is doing very well. He has really turned his act around. It’s his family’s choice. They didn’t want to send him back to Monessen, obviously for a lot of reasons.”
But Monessen contends athletic intent is involved in the transfer and that Minnie doesn’t live in Monessen. In the hearing, Naccarato and Salvino said Minnie admitted he lives with Ryan Skovranko in the West Mifflin district three or four days a week. Skovranko is a talented player at Lincoln Park who transferred from West Mifflin during his freshman year.
“Him staying with [Skovranko] puts up a red flag right there,” Salvino said.
Monessen athletic director Gina Naccarato said, “That was our main thing. He’s not living in Monessen the majority of the time.”
“Having a feeling that he does not live in Monessen, and having proof are miles apart,” Javens said. “Obviously, they didn’t prove that he does not live in Monessen. We basically did. I know that whenever his mother is working and she cannot take him to the bus stop in the morning, he will stay with Ryan occasionally. I don’t know if it’s three or four times a week.”
Mapquest says Monessen High School is more than 60 miles from Lincoln Park, but Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski says Minnie’s one-way commute is 53 miles. Lincoln Park provides busing for its students.
“We have many kids who travel more than 45 miles to get to the school,” Bariski said. “Monessen showed no athletic intent. None. I’ve been through probably 30 of these hearings now. I’m probably the most experienced guy in the WPIAL as far as hearings with ADs. This is really a head scratcher for me. This one, we really couldn’t understand why he was ruled ineligible.”
Javens said, “I understand that people think Elijah Minnie came to Lincoln Park for basketball. But do you think there is ever a case where kids do come there for academics, and they just happen to be basketball players? It seems to me that any time we receive a good basketball player, it just seems like kids are automatically guilty before they are proven innocent.”
Salvino said, “I just feel like these charter schools are getting away with things public schools can’t do. You can’t have two sets of rules – ones for these people and ones for those people.”
Both Naccarato and Salvino said they took offense at comments in the hearing made by Larry Butterini, a Lincoln Park representative. Naccarato and Salvino said Butterini was highly critical of Monessen. Salvino said Monessen contends that if the area and school is so bad, why does he have a younger brother still attending Monessen High School?
“In my eyes [Butterini] really downgraded Monessen in the hearing and I take offense to that,” Salvino said. “I think I try to do the best I possibly can for my players, and I feel the school is the same way.”
Naccarato said, “I graduated from Monessen and I didn’t end up doing too badly. It has to be what you put into it as well. We have a lot of successful people from the city of Monessen, and some didn’t grow up in good neighborhoods, either.
“I’m not saying anything bad about Elijah Minnie, but I wasn’t too happy with some of the statements that were made. It was very disrespectful to our school district. How can you talk that way about an area where I was born and raised? You get upset when people talk about where you’re from.”