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Archive for July 16th, 2009

What fiend burned a dollar sign into the East Hampton football field?

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The police would sure like to know. It’s been nearly two weeks after someone burned a dollar sign in the middle of the $1 million synthetic turf field at East Hampton High School in the tony Long Island enclave that’s summer home to the likes of Stephen Spielberg and Sean Combs. That someone also left a five-page note (and sent copies to local newspaper) raging about how the school board wasting tax money on things like, well, a $1 million synthetic turf field.

It would seem a dollar sign would be an appropriate symbol to have on the field, or the team’s helmets, given the town’s reputation. However, East Hampton has finances that would Californians feel sorry for its plight. The city of 21,000 year-round residents had to get state approval to float $15 million worth of bonds to cover 2007 and 2008 deficits, but East Hampton is looking at another $4.1 million in deficits for 2009, not counting the $1.9 million in 2008 money that won’t be covered by the bonds. As a result, the town is talking layoffs.

East Hampton had a foreclosure problem pop up at the beginning of 2008, and certainly the Wall Street bust and the (perhaps temporary) end of the big-bonus era is killing property values. But a state audit also found that the people running East Hampton were running it, all right — into the ground. That’s on top of the school system’s own financial struggles, although the $1 million synthetic turf field in question was approved as part of an $80 million referendum in 2007. Why not just yank up taxes on the wealthy? Because the residents aren’t all wealthy. The 2000 Census put 12 percent of them below the poverty line, and the city also has a sizable illegal immigrant population that helps support the summer residents.

By the way, it’ll cost $100,000 to fix the burnt field.

At this point, there is no list of suspects. There is no one local crank under suspicion. That’s because even in East Hampton, the tax protesters are out, and an afternoon tea is no longer only held in a mansion.

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Written by rkcookjr

July 16, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Florida judge rules against team that was in, then out, of tournament

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An update on “When Keeping the Rules Real Goes Wrong.”

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Citing bylaws that give the league’s national commissioner the final say in disputes, [Hernando County Judge Kurt Hitzemann] judge on Wednesday rejected a Spring Hill team’s request to reverse the [Dixie Youth Baseball League] commissioner’s July 3 ruling and allow it to play in this weekend’s state tournament.

“What happened here is very unfortunate and sad,” he said later, “but according to these bylaws, the commissioner can do what he wants to do. He can decide what the rules mean.”

Nearly 30 supporters, including some of the 11- and 12-year-old boys on the Spring Hill National Triple-A Majors All Stars, attended the hearing. They all left disappointed.

The controversy, which has drawn attention from national media, stems from a game on June 30 between Spring Hill and a team from South Lake.

That night, a player for South Lake hit a go-ahead home run in the top of the final inning, but failed to touch home plate and was ruled out by an umpire. After a lengthy debate involving officials from the Dixie Youth Baseball organization, the umpire’s ruling stood. The Spring Hill squad won that game in extra innings.

Three days later, Wes Skelton, the league’s national commissioner, awarded the game to South Lake, saying they had been denied an opportunity to appeal the decision on the night of the game.

Claiming that being barred from the state tournament would cause “irreparable harm” to the boys on the team, the Spring Hill squad asked Hitzemann to allow them to play in the upcoming [12-team state] tournament.

Young Hunter Cowers, who hit the home run that started this mess, is now his generation’s George Brett, at least in terms of controversy-causing taters. Maybe the judge should have done this: ordered the game to be replayed from the point the home run was hit. And then the Spring Hill manager could have played everyone out of position as a protest.

Written by rkcookjr

July 16, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Sports

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Upon further review, Florida reverses school sports cutbacks

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The Florida High School Athletic Association, as expected Wednesday, rolled back a plan to cut back schedules for every sport but football and competitive cheerleading. The vote was 15-0, compared to the 9-6 vote in April that established the plan as a way to save money in the face of plummeting property tax revenues for the state’s schools.

The FHSAA was sued on behalf of girls who argued their Title IX rights were violated because by not touching football, the cuts overwhelmingly affected girls’ participation compared with boys’. The FHSAA may well still be ready to argue in court on Friday in Jacksonville that football is a coed sport (the most recenty numbers I’ve seen are 40,000 boys and eight girls, up from the previous count of three.) But Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the lawyer/ex-Olympic swimmer/mother of twin daughters handling the Title IX lawsuit, says she will continue to seek an injunction against the just-rejected plan so the FHSAA can’t try it again. She’ll probably get it, if not Friday, then soon enough.

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Personal foul against the FHSAA, taking Title IX to the ground and givin’ it the business.

Coincidentally, the FHSAA’s change of heart comes the day a group called the College Sports Council put out a release touting a study claiming scholarship discrimination by NCAA programs — against men. From the release, passed to me by the group’s PR contact, Eric McErlain (one of the best hockey bloggers in the business, by the way):

The findings of a first-of-a-kind study of NCAA participation and scholarship data conducted by the College Sports Council (CSC) shows that in NCAA Division I “gender symmetric sports” (teams where both male and female athletes participate), female students are accorded far more opportunities than male students to compete and earn scholarships.

“Because only 119 schools, or less than 12% of all NCAA member institutions, offer the full 85 football scholarships, the NCAA can’t use football to tackle criticism of their discrimination against male athletes in gender symmetric sports,” said CSC Chairman Eric Pearson. “This new study appears to provide prima facie evidence of disparate treatment of male students by the 28% of NCAA Division I schools that don’t sponsor football teams.”

Findings of the study, the first of its kind to compare scholarship opportunities for men and women in NCAA Division I using the organization’s own data, include:

  • At the NCAA Division I level, there are far more women’s teams (2,653) than men’s teams (2,097).  The study found the greatest gender disparities in favor of women in the sports of Volleyball (313 to 21) and Soccer (300 to 195).
  • Overall in “gender symmetric” sports, there are far more scholarships available for women (32,656) than for men (20,206).  This disparity is pronounced through virtually all “gender symmetric” sports because of NCAA scholarship limits.  As a result, even in one of the only sports where there are more men’s teams, golf (285 to 228), there are still more athletic scholarships available for women (1,368 to 1,282.5).
  • In every “gender symmetric” sport with the exception of gymnastics, men face longer odds against getting a scholarship than women.  By far, the most difficult athletic scholarship to obtain at the Division I level is in men’s volleyball, where there are 489 high school athletes for every full NCAA scholarship. Similar long odds exist for men competing in Track and Field/Cross-Country (221 to 1), Soccer and Water Polo (196 to 1) and Tennis (136 to 1).

Before you dismiss the College Sports Council as being charter members of the He-Man Women Hater’s Club, it should be noted that the organization includes a lot of people associated with programs that have gotten the ass end of Title IX. Generally colleges, instead of merely expanding opportunities for women, have tried to game their numbers by cutting men’s nonrevenue sports such as gymnastics and wrestling.

It could be argued that the Florida High School Athletic Association tried to do merely what its college brethren have done — protect football uber alles, and slash and burn everywhere else they can get away with. The issue of Florida’s financial problems doesn’t go away. In fact, FHSAA board members said after the vote that individual schools will now have to make their own cutbacks.

Other states, such as Nevada and Delaware, have cut back schedules for other sports and left football alone, with the argument that football pays the freight and needs to be protected. But in many cases at the high school and college level, football brings in a lot of money, but it also costs a lot of money. Some problems might be solved in making football cut back a little, for a change.

Written by rkcookjr

July 16, 2009 at 12:47 am