Nearly two dozen coaches from Nassau protest the suspension of...

Nearly two dozen coaches from Nassau protest the suspension of Clarke coach Tom Abruscato prior to a game against Division. (Apr. 5, 2010) Credit: James A. Escher

I’m going to go out on a limb and say yesterday wasn’t a great day for Nassau baseball.

First, there’s this whole mess with Clarke coach Tom Abruscato, and then the Clarke/Division game had to be called for darkness with the tying runs on base (!)

I’m going to let that second one go, since the safety of the kids is by far the most important thing. But that first one. Whooo boy.

Anyone with a Newsday subscription knows that we’ve been on the case. Mostly because something’s rotten in the county of Nassau.

I’m not going to say that what the athletic council did against Abruscato is retribution*. I’ve yet to obtain psychic powers and if I did, I’m not sure that’s how I’d use them.

The thing is, it doesn’t much matter whether this whole thing is some big conspiracy against Abruscato. What does matter is that there’s not too much in the way of protective clauses against said hypothetical conspiracy or even unusually harsh punishment. There wouldn’t be a controversy if there was some level of checks and balances in place. Instead, Nassau County is dependent on a ridiculous guidebook that is painfully vague on the subject of penalties and is, at best, unclear and, at worst, kind of schizophrenic. 

(It should be noted, though, that Abruscato and the East Meadow School District didn’t exhaust all their powers of appeal. There was still the option of going to the state with this.)

The amount of power wielded by the athletic council is somewhat disheartening. First off, they were able to establish ability-based grouping despite its jarring unpopularity among the people it actually affects the most: coaches and players. (My opinion on ability-based grouping can be summed up thusly: “Eh.” BUT, on reading the NYSPHAA Handbook, it’s pretty clear that it kinda goes against the spirit of the bylaws).

And now there’s this: a four-game suspension amounts to 20 percent of the season. (Irony Alert: Clarke is already in the post-season because of ability-based grouping, so it technically makes up 0 percent of the games the Rams need to win.)  

Again: I’m not going to pass judgment on whether the punishment is right or wrong. I will, however, pass judgment on how it was done. The system as established by the state leaves too much room for possible corruption and, yes, retribution. The more we pretend this is a one-time disagreement between a coach and a governing body, the more we perpetuate this sort of ridiculous tribal council way of doing things.

Now, we have the coaches association and the athletic council at odds. Again. MacArthur coach Steve Costello said it best. They’re educators. It shouldn’t have to come to this. A real teaching tool – learning how to disagree respectfully and constructively – has been tossed to the wayside in favor of politicking. But hey, can’t say the kids aren’t getting real world experience.

*       For those of you unclear of what’s going on/uninclined to read the article (aw, c’mon) – a refresher course:

This is what I do know:

-          Abruscato was vehement (was he ever) in his opposition to ability-based grouping. He was passionate and some people thought it was annoying. It happens.

-          Abruscato and MacArthur coach Steve Costello made quite a show when they went up to Albany to ask NYSPHSAA to tell the athletic council to knock it off already with the ability-based grouping.

-          NYSPHSAA did not, in fact, tell the athletic council to knock of off already.

-          But something happened, because Nassau went back on the decision and tah dah: this is the last year of ability-based grouping.

Then, the controversy happened. Cliff notes version:

-          Clarke practiced with an unsanctioned team.

-          Other teams also do this sometimes, but it doesn’t make it right.

-          Abruscato gets suspended four games and appeals the decision with the same crew that suspended him. They, shockingly, uphold it. Yes, only two out of 10 people showed up to this hearing, but per the NYSPHSAA Handbook, this is legit. (Who spent her Thursday night trying to crack the Handbook? I did!)

 Agree? Disagree? Comment or email. I can be convinced.
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