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Evansville, Indiana
September 18, 1987     The Message
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September 18, 1987
 

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12 Sports The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana September 18, 1987 Rutter on Sports By DAVE RUTTER Recruitment rumors at Memoffal: suspicion is just not enough Let us today discuss the difference between ac- cusations and proof. As a veteran of 30 years on the coaching ram- parts once told me: "It's the difference between chicken salad and chicken-something-else." Memorial High School currently has its hat- ches battened down in a hurricane over "recruiting" athletes, and where the storm hits next is anyone's guess. And make no mistake. This is not  trivial issue. It speaks to institutional and personal ethics, and these are central to Catholic education. The story basically is this: North High School basketba!l coach Keith Kohlmeyer and football coach Charlie Uhde, with the tacit support of the " school's principal, have accused a Memorial booster of recruiting three incoming freshmen to Memorial when they should have attended North. At the least, they have publicly suggested the IHSAA might check the facts. Local media have identified the booster as auto dealer Robert "Robbie" Kent. What I deduce is this: A: The Indiana High School Athletic Associa- tion prohibits "undue influence" in the recruit- ment of potential athletes, but there is no compell- ing evidence this occurred in the case of the three freshmen. B: Thure is a profound difference between a result found to be unwelcome and one which is unethical. The North coaches may not like the fact that three students with athletic skill chose Memorial. One story referred to the "irritation" of public school officials. But so what? Life is tough sometimes. C: Before public school officials launch into charges of unethical student recruitment, they had better be sure their own houses are in proper order. THE MOST WE KNOW is that Kent probably suggested that the three would benefit from the academic atmosphere at Memorial. There is the in- timation that such suggestions have dubious ethical undertones. Although public school officials should understand the basics of citizenship as clearly as anyone else, they seem to imply that Kent exer- cised the First Amendment to the Constitution. You remember, the one that gives you the essential right to express your beliefs in an unfet- tered exchange of information. Of course, that's not all there is to it. Kent says he has been asked if he is offering scholar- ships to Memorial. In other words: "undue in- fluence." He says he isn't. Unfortunately, whatever occurred in this case has been tarred by a common brush, a result that only muddles the canvas. Many high schools -- yes, Virginia, even the public schools -- channel students with athletic ability. Occasionally the same process occurs with quality French horn soloists and 8th graders with a talent for physics and chemistry. Among other benefits, the organization of local middle schools essentially made high school "recruitment" a more orderly process. This process is neither instrinsically unfair nor immoral. The dispute arises over who has property rights to certain students. The Evansville- Vanderburgh School Corp. essentially views all students in public schools -- even those from Catholic families -- as "theirs." Until recently this premise has gone unchallenged. ONE MIGHT SUSPECT that relationship to have been rendered null and void by the most re- cent charges. Although 29 percent of Memorial's incoming freshman class did not arrive through the customary feeder process, this is not a damning statistic. Over half of that group comes from families with a Catholic background. Roughly 10-to-12 percent of memorial's student body is non-Catholic, but that figure barely matches the national average for Catholic high schools in urban areas. The acceptance of non-Catholics in parochial high schools (at a significantly higher tuition level] is a national trend actively pursued by many school administrations -- Memorial included. Mater Dei has fewer than a half-dozen non- Catholic students, but that ratio may change, ac- cording to Principal Wally Bowman. "Sure, we recruit students, but maybe that's an unfortunate word for it," he says. "We try to at- tract students to quality education in a Christian atmosphere. That's the business we're in. If we don't have students, we're not in business. We believe we have something good going. Not to of- fer that to students and to not give people a choice, that's not righL Unfortunately, athletics get into this and mess it all up. Everybody worries about who's losing and who's winning. But athletics are only a small part of the school package -- two hours on the practice field com- pared to seven hours in the classroom. The fact that Memorial has 10 to 12 percent non-Catholics is right on the national average. It shouldn't be regarded as unusual or unique." Adds Bowman: "As far as athletes getting scholarships from some anonymous benefactor, I've been here for three years and before that at South Bend St. Joseph and St. Edward in Elgin Ill., and I was never aware of that happening." Officials at both Memorial and Mater Uei acknowledge the process of student recruitment is a basic tenet of survival. But it is not tainted unless inducements are offered -- a guaranteed starting spot on the basketball team or free tuition without demonstrated financial need, for example. A school may offer television advertisements, mail circulars or even stage a courteous visit to the home. A BOOSTER SUGGESTING that a youngster of l acquaintance attend parochial school is not "undue influence." In fact, both schools traditionally have suffered more grievous losses than those presumably ac- crued by North. West Siders can point to the dozens of gifted Reitz football players over the years who could just as easily have attended Mater Dei. Reitz boosters are actively pursuing Catholic grade school football players as we speak. Mater Dei football coach Frank Will sees the issue in larger terms. "I think there's just too much pressure on kids at this age," he says. "I think adults are to blame for a lot of this. Basically we want the kids in our feeder schools, but we're open to all students. And sure, everybody wants those good kids in our feeder schools. 'Tin hard-nosed about it," he adds. "I'm not going out and actively recruiting kids who shouldn't be here. But the point is, to make these accusations (about illegal recruiting) you'd better be sure to have the facts. This hearsay is garbage. It just boils down to personal ethics and what you stand for. The kids have to come first and they have to believe in you and what you stand for." This, of course, returns us to the issue of the three freshmen at Memorial. Human nature being what it is, there is the constant danger that rules will be broken. But we live in a society that demands accusa- tion be accompanied by proof. This particular case has much of the first, but little of the latter. Suspi- cion is just not enough. To this point, it's a question of chicken salad, or chicken-something-else. K of C football league The Memorial High School of St. Benedict. Knights of Columbus Council The first half of the jamboree 565 Grade School Football saw Holy Rosary/Good League kicked off its 20th Shepherd going up against season on Sunday, Sept. 13, Christ the King/Holy Spirit. with a Jamboree at Memorial's Matt Swanson of Holy Tiger Field, Evansville. Rosary/Good Shepherd made a 40 yard run to score the only The league coaches arc touchdown of the half, asChrist StevenMarkwell, Mike Minton, the King/Good Shepherd was Randy Perkins and Kevin defeated6-0. Swartz of Holy Rosary/Good The second half saw St. Shepherd; Bud Smith and Geof Theresa/Holy Redeemer going Heald of Christ the King/Holy against St. Benedict. Jim Spirit; Larry Will, Mark Bockting and Greg Schellhause Freeman and Tom Baumgart of each scored a touchdown, St. Theresa/Holy Redeemer and defeating St. Benedict by a Randy, Becker and Byron Early= score of 12-0. JASPER SER VICE AND SHOPPING GUIDE I Buehlers I.G.A. "THE THRIFTY HOUSEWIFE'S SOURCE OF SAVINGS" QUALITY FOODS and MEATS Also Huntingburg and Oakland City KREMPP LUMBER CO. WHOLESALE BUILDING MATERIAL DISTRIBUTION & GENERAL CONTRACTING YARD CONSTRUCTION 482-1961 482-6838 JASPER -.  /1.31   Restau,ant I BECHER & KLUESNER $chnitzdbank4, RESTAURANT I FUNERAL HOME y g  _ Seafood Buffetr.4,,r----  T,u,. HOST I --,.r--. 8..,ii;o.:;. Larry and Betty North Chapel, 33rd Newton 81495 B Mon.-Thu., 0 a.m,-10 p.,,,, t-rL, ,, Hanselman FbSat. TIll 11:00 p.m.  till 11 p.m. ..... .... ........ / , .... 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