AL HAMNIK: Gary athletics need to regroup for 2013-14 school year

2013-05-21T17:15:00Z 2013-06-05T19:24:04Z AL HAMNIK: Gary athletics need to regroup for 2013-14 school yearAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
May 21, 2013 5:15 pm  • 

The athletic programs in Gary have become a joke, like the hapless victim who unknowingly has a "KICK ME!" sign taped to his back at the workplace.

There's one difference, though. Gary athletes, coaches and administrators know everyone is laughing at them.

It's a tired subject local media has addressed for years. Does anyone in that once-proud city care?

I wonder if city leaders regard their youth as a wise investment. If so, the future wouldn't be this bleak.

To have any chance of its athletic programs surviving and its youth flourishing academically, Gary should have only one high school -- West Side -- and close Roosevelt and Lew Wallace.

Facilities at both are lacking, inside and out. Other than boys basketball, there is little interest in the athletic programs at Roosevelt and Wallace, and turnouts are low, while other sports aren't offered.

Meanwhile, there's a turnover of coaches and school administrators that only disrupt the process.

Roosevelt athletic director A.J. Rodriguez was relieved of his duties earlier this school year. Two ADs later, he's back after the new principal asked him to return.

Rodriguez used to coach football. He's all business and big on discipline.

So when Griffith AD Bill Crowley sent an email Tuesday that read: "Gary Roosevelt is not sending a team to the Sectional 17 Baseball Tournament. The Thursday game between Gary Roosevelt and Griffith is a forfeit. Griffith will advance to play in the semi-finals," you were left thinking, Oh, well, Gary's done it again.

But not so fast.

"It wasn't because of injuries or not having enough people," Rodriguez said. "It's disciplinary problems involving four or five kids. So rather than reward them for their lack of discipline, we won't be sending a team.

"The state (association) might not like it, but it's the message we're trying to convey about the importance of discipline, work ethic and commitment."

Roosevelt had only 12 players to begin with.

Over at host Griffith, Gavit and Hammond play today. Griffith is the forfeit winner of Thursday's game. Three games are slated for Saturday, including Clark and Lew Wallace.

"We talked to (Wallace). They'll be there," Crowley said, adding he didn't want to throw Roosevelt under the bus.

"At least we knew in advance. It's the worst when teams don't show up the day of the game," he added. "(Rodriguez) was courteous enough to let us know in advance."

That was May 15, and the forfeit was included on the IHSAA website's sectional brackets.

"Communication is the issue," Crowley said of dealing with Gary schools in general. "You try to reach someone, and it can be tough at times."

Rodriguez won the PR battle this time, but that "Kick Me!" sign won't be coming down anytime soon.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

 

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