Developmental league created in Nassau

LI Lutheran's Traishawn Hubbard holds up the ball LI Lutheran's Traishawn Hubbard holds up the ball after a touchdown run. (Sept. 3, 2011) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Nassau will have a new high school football league for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

The executive board and athletic council of Section VIII, Nassau's governing body, approved the creation of a Relief Developmental League in football for two years Thursday morning, Nassau football coordinator Pat Pizzarelli announced at a meeting of football coaches Thursday night.

The newly formed league will include six current member schools -- Port Washington, Jericho, Great Neck North, Great Neck South, Roslyn and Friends Academy -- and one new school, Long Island Lutheran, in the first year. Each team in the league will play an eight-game schedule.

"We're going to look at it for a period of time and see two things," Pizzarelli said. "One, is it really developing these schools and are they getting better and getting more numbers and being competitive? Two, what's the effect on the rest of the teams in Nassau County -- the other 50 teams?

"If it's a bad effect on 50, why should we do something for six?"

No such league is being considered in Suffolk at this time, according to Section XI football chairman Tom Combs.

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No team or individual records will count toward Nassau or the state and the league will not have a postseason. It is the first time a developmental league has existed in Nassau since the six-team Island Conference in 1991.

All the participants will be reviewed after the first year, Pizzarelli said. "If a team dominates that league, they will more than likely go back into their conference," he said.

Several coaches voiced concerns about the inclusion of Lutheran, even in a limited capacity, during a discussion about the new league that lasted more than 30 minutes. Some objected to the inclusion of a private school in Nassau and brought up the perception that Lutheran recruits athletes, including football players.

"If I were a public school, I can understand the apprehension," said Lutheran athletic director Todd Huebner, who was excited to hear about his program's inclusion. "This is going to be our challenge, to show the people in Section VIII that we're a legitimate program and we're not looking to take everybody's players. I don't think that's going to be an issue. We'll have to carry ourselves with pride and humility and good sportsmanship.

"We're a Long Island school. There's no reason we can't play Long Island schools in football."

Huebner and Lutheran coach Chris Reno were not in attendance because they were not yet aware of the decision. Lutheran participated in the Fairchester League last season and went 4-6 overall and 2-5 in league play.

"The recruiting idea for football is a large-scale operation and we are not a large-scale operation," Reno said. "Ultimately, if recruiting was happening, I've been here for 13 years, and if we're recruiting for football, I'm not very good at it."

Pizzarelli called including Lutheran for at least one year in the new developmental league "helping a neighbor out."

"If LuHi becomes a 'Friend and Neighbor' [as defined by NYSPHSAA], then they would be able to play with us [in the future]," he said.

Conferences I, II and IV will have 12 members and Conference III will have 14 members next season, said Pizzarelli, who acknowledged that the loss of six schools to the developmental league will "create a new bottom" in the conference standings.

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"We'll have more competitive games," Carey coach and coaches association president Mike Stanley said. "I don't think that's a bad thing at all. I think that's a good thing for Nassau County football."

If teams in the developmental league are unable to show progress after two years, they might have to merge with another team in order to compete, Pizzarelli said. The six public schools that will be in the developmental league had a combined record of 5-35 (Friends Academy did not have a varsity football team in 2011).

"I believe the schools who still end up not being successful, they're going to have to make a decision," he said. "Does it pay for them to continue playing football? If it does, then they exist the way they are by themselves or maybe they need to look to merge."

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