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PSAL sets confusing precedent on transfers

Chelsea Robinson (c.) is the latest addition to the Francis Lewis Patriots.
By Joseph Staszewski

The PSAL ruling on Chelsea Robinson’s eligibility to play is about more than just this one instance. It sets a dangerous precedent moving forward and appears to be another case of the league bending its own rules.

The Francis Lewis center played games at The Taft School in Connecticut earlier this season before transferring to Francis Lewis in January. According to a PSAL rule, Robinson should not be able to take the court because she competed for another school during the same season.

City Department of Education spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said “the PSAL considered the reasons she had for leaving the school” and granted her clearance to compete in an unprecedented move.

Yolanda Caban, Robinson’s mother, said her daughter left Taft for “personal reasons” and Lewis Coach Steve Tsai stated there were extenuating circumstances beyond the family’s control.

That’s all fine and good, and maybe there was a strong reason for her being allowed to compete. But if the PSAL is going to break its rule in unprecedented fashion, there needs to be a better explanation. Rules should be in black and white and any exceptions should be clarified.

If not, you’re putting a lot of power in the hands of PSAL officials to pick and choose as they please when a rule does or does not apply.

“The fact that the PSAL then approved it and let it go and they are not being clear as to why, it just makes a farce of the whole thing,” Truman girls’ basketball Coach John Burke said.

What’s to stop kids from leaving city private and Catholic schools mid-season with a “hardship” and being cleared to play? It’s been done before, but never after the athlete played in regular season games. The floodgates could open.

“Anybody can play for a school and say I’m not happy here and go and transfer,” Murry Bergtraum girls’ basketball Coach Ed Grezinsky said.

The PSAL’s record dealing with situations similar to this is also convoluted, showing the rules are merely there for interpretation. Jordan Washington was kept from playing for Pathways last season after competing at a prep school early in the year.

Back in 2009, Kamari Murphy left Bishop Ford for Lincoln in December without playing in any games, but he was on the team’s roster and competed in scrimmages. He was cleared to play for Lincoln.

When Chris Ortiz bolted Christ the King for the Railsplitters later that month, under the same circumstances, he was ruled ineligible.

Coaches, players and parents have come up with clearer explanations for transfers than those used in Robinson’s case. The league and Francis Lewis have cited the family’s privacy as the reason not to provide further detail. When pressed, Caban said that “everybody always wonders” when it comes to these things.

If that is the case, then put the rumors to bed. A simple explanation makes all the negative attention around Robinson go away. Instead, every step of Francis Lewis’ playoff run will be scrutinized with people wondering if the Patriots made it this far fairly.

Allowing Robinson to play without disclosing the reason shows that the PSAL doesn’t have rules but suggestions on how to proceed if officials feel like it — without any accountability.

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