Bires: Lincoln Park report off the mark
May 25, 2012
Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 8:34 pm | Updated: 10:33 am, Fri May 25, 2012.
Bires: Lincoln Park report off the mark
By Mike Bires firstname.lastname@example.org Timesonline.com
KDKA-TV went to great lengths recently to put together a two-part investigative story that focused on Lincoln Park's basketball program. The premise was that the Leopards recruit players illegally.
However, those reports filed by veteran investigator Andy Sheenan proved absolutely nothing.
Sure, there were allegations from administrators at Cornell and Freedom that Lincoln Park, a performing arts charter school in Midland, recruits basketball talent. But there was not one shred of evidence remotely suggesting that any of the players Sheenan mentioned came to Lincoln Park for athletic intent.
One of the players named in the so-called investigation was B.J. Lipke, who transferred to Lincoln Park from Cornell. KDKA called Lipke a "star."
Lipke may have been a star at Cornell as an underclassmen (he averaged 13 points per game as a sophomore). But in two years at Lincoln Park, he was a role player that rarely started. As a junior and senior, he never averaged higher than 5 ppg.
Lipke headed for Lincoln Park after a certain Cornell administrator forged a medical excuse so that Lipke could play in a game after missing school that day. It was this forged document and the dissatisfaction Lipke's mother had with the way the Cornell administration handled it that led to the transfer.
The WPIAL ruled Lipke ineligible, stating that forgery of a medical excuse was not reason to transfer. But the PIAA disagreed and OK'd the transfer.
So Lipke, a star linebacker who was still allowed to play football at Cornell, did not transfer for athletic intent.
Another player mentioned in the KDKA report was Devontae Watson, a 6-foot-10 center who lives in Ambridge. The bottom line in Watson's transfer to Lincoln Park in January of his freshman year was that it was never challenged by any of the school systems he previously attended (Monaca, Ambridge and Hopewell).
Watson, who was living in Ambridge when he played for Hopewell's eighth-grade team, moved on to Lincoln Park because he was intrigued by its academic and social possibilities. He was cleared to play by the WPIAL without question.
There is no need to cite chapter and verse here on all of the basketball players who've played at Lincoln Park since the program was founded five years ago.
In all, 36 student/athletes have transferred to Lincoln Park. Only one of those 36 was deemed ineligible on the basis of athletic intent, and that was because of the actions of that player's father, not by any recruiting by Lincoln Park.
For decades, the athletic transfer rule has been a complex and controversial topic throughout the state. One of the main problems in enforcing the rule is that it's hard to prove athletic intent. It's an issue that may never go away.
As far as Lincoln Park basketball is concerned, the real issue isn't the recruitment of star players. It's the fact that students from any school district can attend classes there for free. The school district where a student lives pays the cost.
More than anything, that's what irritates Lincoln Park critics.
Over the past few years, I've talked to basketball players about their overall experience at Lincoln Park which offers classes in music, theater, dance, creative writing, media arts and health science. They raved about it. I've talked to parents with sons and daughters who aren't athletes but attend Lincoln Park because of academic opportunities. They've raved about it.
Lincoln Park, which won the WPIAL Class A basketball title this year and lost in the state championship game, doesn't need coach Mark Javens to recruit players.
The whole Lincoln Park experience recruits itself.
About Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School
The Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School (www.lppacs.org) is a Pennsylvania public school providing a state-approved academic program and pre-professional training for grades 7-12 in music, theater, dance, creative writing, health science arts and media arts. The school enrolls 550 students from 58 surrounding school districts.
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