Saturday, January 12, 2002

Rival coach says Moeller inquiry is overdue

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A veteran Catholic-school football coach Friday joined public school officials and parents who say the investigation of alleged recruiting improprieties at Moeller High School is long overdue.

        “This is nothing new for Moeller,” charged Roger Bacon High School coach Dan Starkey, a member of the St. Bernard school's coaching staff for 25 years.

        “In the past, we've been very upset with Moeller in regards to recruiting improprieties. We're all supposed to be Catholic high schools and are all supposed to have integrity, but sometimes I don't think they abide by that,” Mr. Starkey said.

        He claimed that Moeller improperly lured away an “impact player” last year who originally intended to join Roger Bacon's football squad. Mr. Starkey, whose Division II team finished 8-2 this year, said, “If we had that kid, we would have had a very special year.”

        Mr. Starkey declined to identify the boy or detail his allegations. He said at the request of the boy's parents his school did not file a complaint against Moeller. But he said illicit recruiting by Moeller “isn't fair to Catholic or public schools.”

        “We are in St. Xavier High School's backyard and we have never had a problem with them,” he said of another of Greater Cincinnati's Catholic football powers.

        Though Moeller officials did not respond Friday to requests to comment on Mr. Starkey's allegations, backers defended the school.

        Tom Clark, whose son recently graduated from Moeller, said if the school or first-year coach Bob Crable did violate recruiting laws, it was unintentional.

        “It think Bob Crable is one of the finest human beings I've ever met,” said Mr. Clark.

        Earlier this week, the Enquirer reported that public-school officials of the Greater Miami Conference have accused Moeller of illicitly recruiting public school students with a postage-paid pamphlet soliciting personal information and through a coach's visit to a church. The schools also complained that Moeller recruited at a Pee Wee football practice, against the spirit of the Ohio High School Athletic Association's bylaws.

        The OHSAA is investigating the allegations and if Moeller is found guilty the school could face a range of penalties including: fines, banishment from post-season play, suspension or other penalties deemed appropriate by the OHSAA commissioner. A decision is expected in two weeks.

        Mr. Crable has not disputed the instances cited by GMC officials, but denied any illicit recruiting and said the GMC complained because “they are trying to protect themselves, protect their players and their districts.”

        Mr. Crable has contended that the football pamphlet is simply one component of a larger school recruitment effort and not improper. He has not denied recruiting Pee Wee football players nor distributing the pamphlet to the youngsters.

        A Princeton High School parent, who complained directly to GMC officials that her 11-year-old son was being recruited at Pee Wee football practice, said Moeller was targeting public-school students, which violates OHSAA laws. Her letter to GMC officials was forwarded to the OHSAA.

        Veteran Hamilton High School football coach Ed Mignery, whose school — along with Princeton and Colerain — are GMC members with historically strong football programs, said he has no personal knowledge of recruiting misdeeds by Moeller. But he is nevertheless concerned about such accusations' impact on Greater Cincinnati prep football.

        “You have to have the rules enforced. That's what keeps us all in line, said Mr. Mignery.

        He said he was particularly disturbed that any football coach would recruit at Pee Wee football games.

        “As far as I'm concerned, that's illegal recruiting,” said Mr. Mignery.

        Sycamore High School parent Mike Fitzgibbons, whose son plays for the GMC school's football team, described the alleged recruiting improprieties as “a little unseemly.”

        “But Moeller has been doing this for a long time ... it's not surprising. This time they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar,” said Mr. Fitzgibbons.

        But George Beimesche, whose son graduated from Moeller last year, defended the football powerhouse by saying that Mr. Crable simply made mistakes in adhering to the often-complicated rules of prep recruiting.

        “He pretty much screwed up,” Mr. Beimesche said of the Moeller coach in regards to using a pamphlet to solicit personal information from youngsters. “What he did was embarrassing, but it was not intentional.”

        Previous stories:
        Moeller under recruiting probe Jan. 8
Moeller coach denies allegations Jan. 11

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