SYRACUSE, N.Y. – An undefeated central New York high school football team will not play in Saturday's championship game after a state appeals judge refused to lift a suspension for recruiting violations.
Skaneateles Central School officials took the case to the Appellate Division of New York State Supreme Court, arguing the suspension was too severe and the team should be allowed to play for the Section III Class C title.
Section III's Athletic Council voted to suspend the team for the remainder of the season after a district investigation found an unnamed coach improperly tried to recruit players from other schools last year. There also were allegations that three players who did switch to Skaneateles this season did not live in the district.
Judge John V. Centra left the suspension in place Thursday.
"The judge denied our appeal, so at this point our season has ended," Skaneateles school superintendent Philip D'Angelo said outside the court. "We had a fabulous season, 9-0. Our student-athletes did a tremendous job. We're very, very proud of them. They're ending their season as winners. We appreciate that. This has nothing to do with them."
After the team's practice Thursday, the players stood in a huddle near the goalposts at the northern end zone, yellow pants topped by white practice jerseys. At the end of the brief gathering, they raised their yellow helmets over their heads and walked off the field to the locker room. A few of the players exchanged hugs.
Head coach Tim Green, a former Syracuse All-American and eight-year NFL veteran, resigned Tuesday night in the wake of the suspension. He has denied any wrongdoing. Green, who coached the team for two seasons, was not immediately available for comment.
The district argued the players were being punished for mistakes made by adults.
"It was the right decision. It was a law decision and sometimes that's difficult," said John McGowan, attorney for Section III. "There's no joy in this. Nobody wants to take kids off the field. These are young athletes who have done their very best.
"It's what the rules are. It's a matter of upholding the integrity of the system. It has to be done, and it's done."
The section officials voted unanimously last Friday to suspend the team, but Supreme Court Justice Brian DeJoseph later issued a temporary restraining order delaying the suspension.
That allowed Skaneateles to play in the state semifinals on Saturday, and the Lakers beat Notre Dame of Utica 46-27. DeJoseph lifted the restraining order on Tuesday, saying that any further delay and allowing the Lakers to finish their season would nullify the penalty.
That cleared the way for Section III officials to offer Notre Dame a berth in the championship game against Herkimer for the sectional title.
Section III executive director John Rathbun said he called Notre Dame athletic director Gene Leuthauser as soon as Thursday's decision was rendered, Leuthauser relayed the news, and the players erupted in glee. All three teams had been practicing while they awaited the decision.