Local coaches react to Mooney investigation

The allegations of recruiting at Cardinal Mooney High School on Thursday brought forth a variety of opinions from coaches from around the Mahoning Valley.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced it was investigating the Cardinals for recruiting violations. The OHSAA is looking into an accusation that a Mooney coach hosted two eighth-graders from Struthers High School for dinner in an attempt to lure them to play football for the Cardinals. The coach in question has since resigned, and the investigation is ongoing.

The possible infractions didn’t sit well with a few Trumbull County coaches, but the news wasn’t anything that Niles coach Brian Shaner hasn’t heard before. Shaner coached at Youngstown East for five seasons. East is a city school that is bordered by private schools such as Mooney and Ursuline. Shaner didn’t say whether he ever lost any athletes to area schools, but he was adamant that “recruiting” happens all over, not just at parochial schools.

“I coached in the city, so I was surrounded around that parochial aspect,” he said. “I think (recruiting) goes on everyday, not only at parochial but public schools. I know everyone goes through this. It isn’t just Struthers, it isn’t just the city. Parochials and publics throughout the state fight this battle, and there’s always that dreaded word of recruiting that comes up. And it isn’t just the parochial schools doing the recruiting, there are public schools out there trying to get kids to leave other districts. And I don’t know what the answer is, but it goes on.”

Certain versions of recruiting are allowed by the OHSAA, but not when the sole reason for securing the enrollment of a prospective student is based on athletic purposes. Open enrollment, which allows children to attend schools outside their district on certain occasions, is permitted at numerous high schools around the area. Furthermore, schools are allowed to post ads on billboards and in newspapers to promote their academic achievements in an attempt to attract potential students. This gives parents opportunities to send their children to a number of different schools, but it also can leave coaches in difficult predicaments.

“Everytime you pick up a newspaper or listen to the news, you hear all kind of stories, whether it’s in sports or politics or whatever,” John F. Kennedy coach Dave Pappada said. “We just try to mind our business and do what we think is best for our program and do it in a first-class manner.”

Pappada said he was disappointed to hear the news and added that he has never been around a “recruiting” situation.

If Girard coach Nick Cochran has, he really doesn’t care. Cochran agreed that such tactics probably happen on a regular basis, but he said he couldn’t care less about the intentions of other schools. His focus remains on the kids who stick around.

“My thing is, if kids want to play somewhere, let them go and play somewhere,” he said. “I don’t really care. I feel that what I’m doing is the right thing, and if a kid doesn’t want to stay with what I’m doing, then it doesn’t bother me.”

“I don’t think coaches try to do things intentionally,” he added. “Coaches are as competitive as I am. All I want to do is win and do what’s best for kids. I want the kids to get a good education, and secondly, I want them to be successful on the field.”

Shaner said he holds a similar attitude toward coaching. He also emphasized that kids who leave smaller schools to attend more prominent ones aren’t really increasing their chances of being noticed by colleges. Websites such as Scouting Ohio and Hudl give athletes multiple opportunities to be seen by college recruitors.

“I just always tell my guys that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” he said. “You need to be with people that are sincere and care about you not only as a player but as a person.”