Moore Catholic parents and players are caught in a numbers game as they try to get the school’s football program restored.
“This is devastating for these boys,” said Dr. Olen Yarborough, grandmother of junior two-way player Chris Andrews.
The Staten Island Catholic school announced on March 1 that it would be dropping the football team due to low interest and safety issues. According to the school, just 18 players were scheduled to return from last year’s squad which finished 9-0 playing an independent schedule. Some of those players were also academically ineligible.
Joseph E. Amaturo
Moore Catholic suspended its football program because of ack of interest and safety issues.
Money and overall school enrollment was not a part of the decision, but its population has become 65 percent female, limiting the pool of boys to play sports.
The parents have compiled a list of 35 to 37 boys who said they are committed to playing football next season. That does not include any students who are graduating or possible incoming freshmen. The school, parents said, is not interested in their list. The Mavericks played their final game last season with 28 players on their roster.
“Every year we had a fear that the team was going to fade away,” Andrews said. “Coach Rocco kept recruiting. We did everything we could do. ... It just didn’t seem like they want to try anymore.”
Rocco, who spent five seasons as coach -- two as a member of the CHSFL, said he and the school made one final push to increase and gauge numbers. Only 8-to-15 kids were regularly attending offseason workouts, they said, and many of the players who they hoped would join the team were no longer interested in playing. Safety was also an issue, having kids who had never played football before competing at the varsity level.
The uncertainty left Rocco unable to schedule any independent games. He never saw the number the parents are trying to present. McManus said that only five incoming freshmen from a group of 60 who were asked showed any real intentions of playing football.
“I’m disappointed in a lot of things,” Rocco said. “Mostly, I feel bad for the parents and the kids. Honestly, the school tried.”
The parents contest that the players who were academically ineligible could still work their way back on the team and other boys who were interested in playing football were playing other varsity sports and unable to attend workouts. They feel the school didn’t do enough and blindsided them with the news.
“You pulled the foundation from under these boys,” said one parent, speaking under condition of anonymity because of fear of backlash from the school.
The players were still working out for next season season just days before the meeting was called to announce the program’s suspension. Parents expected the news to be the exact opposite with rumors of the end of the team disspelled. They say it left their sons depressed over losing what they consider family, feeling like something is missing from their lives and fearing it will impact their chances of playing in college.
“Why would you do that?” said one parent. “Why would anybody do that? This is a Catholic school? We are not teaching them team work.”
Added McManus: “I’m not sure if we blindsided them. I certainly think we did everything that we could."
Multiple parents said players have already transferred from the school to play football elsewhere and more could follow suit. Rocco is still helping other sports with their offseason workouts and has yet to decide where and in what capacity he will coach next.
“It would make sense for me to get back into the PSAL, but only time will tell,” Rocco said. “Hopefully somebody will want me.
The former McKee/Staten Island Tech head coach went 28-22 during his tenure at Moore, but was involved in an ugly incident during halftime of a Thanksgiving charity game in 2010 at Tottenville against Susan Wagner. He was accused of cursing Tottenville players, who were playing in the PSAL semifinals the next day, collecting their belongings from their locker room. He allegedly shoved Pirates defensive back Niheem Chavis, sparking a locker room brawl after Chavis threw a punch at the coach. Rocco has denied the allegations and was never disciplined by the school.
Moore started the program in 2001, went 9-1 in 2003 and beat St. Joseph by the Sea for the CHSFL Class A title under coach Bill Sullivan. Moore fell in the ‘AA' championship game the next season to Holy Cross, its only loss that year. After the 2008 season, Rocco’s second year, the Mavericks left the CHSFL and enjoyed two undefeated seasons as an independent squad.
Yarborough said she, the parents and players' goal is to find a way to get the program back next season, but the school has turned a deaf ear.
"You are killing their aspirations," Yarborough said.
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