By Joe Scalzo
A Cardinal Mooney freshman football coach has left his job. Two incoming freshmen may have lost a year of eligibility. And Cardinal Mooney disagrees with the Ohio High School Athletic Association on a couple key facts related to a recruiting investigation.
The penalties stem from a dinner, hosted by a Cardinal Mooney coach a few months ago, that two Struthers eighth graders attended concerning “their possible matriculation to Mooney,” according to a statement released by the OHSAA on Thursday morning.
OHSAA commissioner Dr. Dan Ross ruled that the students will be ineligible to play sports at Mooney for one year from their date of enrollment should they choose to enroll as freshmen in 2013-14.
OHSAA bylaw 4-9-4 prohibits coaches from “having any contact with prospective student-athletes, except as permitted, who are not presently enrolled in the school’s educational program, or their parents, prior to written acceptance notification.”
One of the students has since been accepted to Mooney. The OHSAA is investigating allegations that the other student continues to receive text messages from another Mooney coach.
Both student-athletes are “above-average” football players, according to a source familiar with the situation. One is a lineman and the other is a skill position player, the source said.
Randy Rair, assistant superintendent for the Youngstown Diocese, said the school conducted an internal investigation and found no evidence of improper texting.
“We investigated that pretty thoroughly,” he said of the texting allegations.
As for the dinner, Rair claims it was attended by just one student — the one accepted for enrollment — as well as his family and that Mooney self-reported the violation. Rair said the Mooney coach “acted on his own.”
Neither Rair nor the OHSAA would identify the coach. One freshman coach, Paul Mahin, left Mooney’s program in mid-February, around the time of the dinner. When reached by phone Thursday night, Mahin declined comment except to say he did not resign over the allegations.
“Our schools are members of the OHSAA and we want to follow the rules,” Rair said. “As soon as we were notified [of the meal], we self-reported it and asked the OHSAA to investigate.”
Struthers superintendent Joseph Nohra said his school was notified of the violation by Mooney and the Youngstown Diocese, not by the OHSAA.
“We didn’t go looking for this,” Nohra said. “We didn’t go running to the OHSAA. From our viewpoint, we felt it was a situation we should turn over to our sister school [Mooney] and work with them closely on the issue.
“We have a lot of compassion for our students and our families and this is an unfortunate situation.”
Neither Mooney football coach P.J. Fecko nor athletic director Don Bucci returned messages seeking comment.
Nick Wolsonovish, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Youngstown, said the school has worked collaboratively with the OHSAA for months and that the Diocese is still investigating the situation.
“One of the things we want to emphasize is that we are a member of the OHSAA and we are committed to following their rules and regulations and try to collaborate and cooperate with the OHSAA on every single incident,” he said.
Vindicator reporter Denise Dick contributed to this report.