For once, the PIAA backed the WPIAL in a student-athlete transfer case.
The PIAA today ruled Elijah Minnie ineligible to play high school basketball this season, saying he transferred from Summit Academy to Lincoln Park for athletic reasons. Minnie is a 6-foot-8 forward who is considered one of the better juniors in the WPIAL. In early October, the WPIAL ruled Minnie ineligible, but Minnie and Lincoln Park officials appealed the case to the PIAA.
In the past few years, the PIAA has overturned the WPIAL in many cases involving student-athlete transfers. But not this time. A PIAA appeals committee had a hearing with Minnie and Lincoln Park today in Mechanicsburg, and upheld the WPIAL ruling by a 3-2 vote.
"The [WPIAL] panel was unanimous in its belief that the transfer was motivated by a material purpose related specifically to the sport of basketball," said North Hills athletic director Dan Cardone, a WPIAL Board of Control member who was one of the WPIAL representatives at the PIAA hearing today. "By the PIAA upholding our decision, it reaffirms what we felt occurred."
The background on the case is this: Minnie attended Monessen as a freshman, got into some trouble and 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 for this school year.
Lincoln Park is a small charter school in Midland. It has a strong basketball program in Class A of the WPIAL and has been the destination of other noteable 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.
During the WPIAL hearing, Monessen contended Minnie is not living in Monessen in the first place. Minnie and Lincoln Park, however, contend that he still, indeed, lives in Monessen. According to Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski, Minnie's Monessen home is 53 miles from Lincoln Park.
Minnie and Lincoln Park had contended at the WPIAL hearing 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.
But the WPIAL and Monessen contend athletic intent was involved in the transfer. In the WPIAL hearing, Monessen athletic director Gina Naccarato and basketball coach Joe 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 last month.