Bishop McCort Catholic Principal Tom Smith wasn’t surprised when the PIAA District 6 Committee declared six wrestlers who recently transferred to McCort ineligible for one year during the district’s meeting on Sept. 7 at Penn Cambria High School.
In fact, Smith said Bishop McCort Catholic actually took steps to ensure that student-athletes who transfer to the Johnstown school will be required to wait an academic year before being eligible to compete in their respective sports.
“We are being proactive. Anyone who transfers into our school will have to sit for a year,” Smith said during a telephone interview. “We’re making these rules to protect ourselves and our kids. That’s how we’re approaching it given recent events.”
In November, the District 6 Executive Committee suspended wrestling coach Bill Bassett and handed a two-year postseason ban to the wrestling team due to alleged violations of the PIAA’s rules regarding transfers and recruiting.
All Bishop McCort athletic teams were placed on probation.
The PIAA Board of Directors upheld the District 6 Committee ruling in December after an appeal.
“The kids, the parents, the families know up front anyone who is transferring in from other school districts will have to sit for one year unless there are other circumstances that we would deem a hardship,” Smith said.
Mike Hudak, a PIAA District 6 officials representative, was part of the regularly-scheduled committee meeting. Hudak said that no eligibility hearings were necessary because of how Bishop McCort Catholic reported the transfers.
“When a student transfers, either the sending school or the receiving school, if either one of those would check the athletic intent box (on a form), that would generate a hearing by the district committee,” Hudak said. “As the receiving school, Bishop McCort checked the athletic intent box. By PIAA by-law, those students have to sit out one year. McCort is doing that on their own. They’re checking athletic intent.
“It’s more or less them self-reporting,” Hudak said. “They have that right.”
According to the District 6 Committee meeting minutes, three of the ineligible wrestlers are eighth-grade students, one is in seventh grade, one is a freshman and one is a sophomore. They transferred from Indiana Area High School, Philipsburg, Northern Bedford County, First Baptist Academy and 3 Oaks Academy in Naples, Florida.
“We feel that is a proactive approach in working with District 6,” Smith said. “We feel confident working with them over the past few months that things are moving in the right direction.”
Mike Mastovich is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 814-532-5083. Follow him on Twitter @Masty81.