Sunday, January 12, 2003

Beechwood, CovCath to revive rivalry

Things have cooled since '00 incidents; money's good, too

By Stephenie Steitzer
Enquirer contributor

The Tristate sports rivalry that became so hot that the annual game was cancelled has completed a cooling-off period.

School officials at Beechwood Independent and Covington Catholic high schools have reinstated a longstanding football rivalry after a two-year hiatus.

The officials put a moratorium on the game after fans' behavior during the September 2000 game drew widespread criticism.

CovCath Principal Jack Kennevan and Beechwood Superintendent Fred Bassett said they are reinstating the rivalry, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 20 at CovCath, because the schools' athletic departments need the $8,000 to $10,000 generated from ticket and concession sales to offset operational costs.

The officials say attendance at the game is always at stadium capacity - between 1,500 and 2,000 - because the schools are only a mile apart.

"This is a good moneymaker," Mr. Kennevan said. "When you have that gate it helps offset the operational costs."

The officials were reluctant to call off the game two years ago because of the loss of revenue and longstanding tradition, but incidents before and during the game forced the decision.

"Both schools kind of felt that competition off the field had gotten a little too intense," Mr. Bassett said. "Both of us feel now that enough time has gone by."

Two nights before the Sept. 16, 2000, game, some Beechwood buses were vandalized and other property at the school was damaged. At the game, Beechwood fans said some CovCath students chanted vulgarities at them.

CovCath supporters, in turn, pointed fingers at Beechwood, saying some of their fans threw bottles at CovCath students and spray-painted the Beechwood logo on CovCath's track.

But the heated Northern Kentucky rivalry isn't the only one that has boiled over.

Fights, both on and off the field and basketball court, have marred other rivalries in the Tristate.

Simmering tensions between Mount Healthy and Woodward high schools nearly caused a ban on spectators at a boys' basketball game a year ago.

Cincinnati-area incidents last year also included a fight that broke out between West Carrollton and Monroe players during a post-game handshake, a late-game brawl that brought fans swarming onto the court in a Dixie-Carlisle game and post-game clashes between Sycamore and Moeller high school fans that sent two Moeller youths to the hospital.

Beechwood Independent High School is a 500-student community school in Fort Mitchell. Beechwood's football team, which lost the Class A state championship game in December in Louisville, won the rivalry game against CovCath for seven consecutive years.

CovCath, with 500 students, is the only all-male private school in Northern Kentucky, and one of only three in the state.

Mr. Kennevan said the reason the revenue is so important to CovCath is that the majority of nearby schools have moved up to Class AAAA, leaving CovCath, a Class AAA school, to play several teams from outside the area. Travel costs and attendance drops hit the parochial school hard.

Of CovCath's five district opponents, only two are in Northern Kentucky - Highlands and Holmes high schools.

Mr. Kennevan said CovCath alumni, who donate about $200,000 a year to the school, also pressured officials to reinstate the rivalry.

"Many alums expressed desire to restore the competition," Mr. Kennevan said. "We're ready."

Both officials said they would remind their students to be on their best behavior. They said security would be about the same as at other games.

"We will be using the common-sense approach," Mr. Kennevan said.

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