Ray Duckler: A meeting of the minds for Pembroke? Maybe
With the speed of a poorly run half-court offense, it appears that, finally, a dispute involving the Pembroke Academy boys’ basketball team might be nearing an end.
Optimism emerged from a meeting held yesterday at Southern New Hampshire University, where the Pembroke administration and a segment of athletic directors continued a dialogue that could lead to a schedule for the Spartans this season.
Pembroke has been ostracized because of charges it recruited players from outside its district, for which the school has already received severe sanctions.
Finding information was not easy. But after unanswered phone messages and emails, and an interview with a Pembroke cynic who was at the meeting and who was cordial but said nothing, an email surfaced from Suzanne Klink, Pembroke’s athletic director, that said what Spartan supporters have been waiting months to hear, and their critics won’t like in the least.
“We answered any and all questions that the group had for us,” Klink wrote, “and we walked away feeling confident that we will get a schedule.”
The email added that another meeting is scheduled for Aug. 21. “We will have an official response from them at that time,” Klink wrote.
“Them” refers to a group of Division I athletic directors who have joined forces and said they won’t play Pembroke. The move seemed strange, since the boycott came only after Pembroke had successfully petitioned to move up a notch, to Division I.
Under Coach Matt Alosa, Pembroke has won the past two Division II state titles. But there’s been a price to pay for this glory, as recruiting charges leveled at Alosa have tarnished the program like an old piece of copper.
The charges stem from an elite local AAU program run by Matt’s father, Frank Alosa, who critics say has built a road from his team straight to Pembroke.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association forbids students to transfer schools due to athletic reasons. Players who it believes do this must sit out a year.
That’s what happened to a pair of Pembroke players last season, ruled ineligible by former NHIAA director Pat Corbin, who retired this summer.
Corbin declared another player, who had repeated eighth grade before moving to the Pembroke School District, ineligible for this season, a ruling that was overturned by an appeals board.
Corbin and Frank Alosa won’t be having dinner together anytime soon, and now Corbin’s successor, Jeff Collins, enters the mix.
Reached this week, Collins wouldn’t touch this issue with a 10-foot basket.
“From the NHIAA perspective, the scheduling piece has always been between the schools, and whatever differences the schools have, there’s an opportunity to work these things out,” said Collins, who was the Portsmouth High principal for eight years before moving to the NHIAA. “That’s what the process has always been, and the process is still playing out as we speak.”
The process continued yesterday with a meeting that officials had hoped would remain a secret. What other conclusion can we reach when no one, not Rob Pedersen, the new Pembroke headmaster, nor Klink would return phone or email messages seeking information?
Also at the meeting, according to Klink’s email, was Tim Powers, the president of the Division I Athletic Directors, which oversees scheduling; Exeter High Athletic Director Bill Ball; Manchester District Athletic Director Chris Donovan, who has said he will allow Manchester Central and Memorial high schools to schedule Pembroke this season; and Pinkerton Academy Dean of Students Glenn Ahrens.
Powers returned my call the day before the meeting, but was coy throughout the conversation. He had little to add when reached yesterday, after the meeting.
“All my discussions with them are between my group and Pembroke,” Powers said Tuesday. “That’s how we do it. We discuss it at the table, the parties involved, and then we don’t air our dirty laundry.”
But while Powers didn’t tell me anything, his “dirty laundry” line reveals the contentious nature of this issue. The state’s basketball community, stretching from the southern, northern and western borders, wants to know if the Spartans will be allowed to play this season.
Leading the charge for the Spartans is a group called The Parents of Pembroke Academy Basketball Players, which has tirelessly lobbied in support of the Spartans.
The list of those hoping Pembroke remains on the sidelines this season includes coaches who say the Spartans stole their players, and state hoop fans who have long disliked the Alosas, especially Frank, long known for stating strong opinions and ruffling feathers.
Meanwhile, Pedersen and Klink continue to negotiate. Wrote Klink, “Again, we both feel confident that we will be getting a schedule.”