PIAA upholds ruling against Minnie transfer to Lincoln Park

Elijah Minnie dunks during a game in the J. Budd Grebb Memorial Summer League. Photo courtesy of Budd Grebb Hoops.
Elijah Minnie dunks during a game in the J. Budd Grebb Memorial Summer League. Photo courtesy of Budd Grebb Hoops.
| Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Over the years, when transfer appeals came before the PIAA Board of Appeals, the state high school athletic organization rarely upheld the decisions made by the WPIAL.

However, the PIAA Thursday upheld a WPIAL ruling that former Monessen and Summit Academy basketball player Elijah Minnie transferred to Lincoln Park for athletic intent.

The decision means the 6-8 Minnie not only cannot play basketball at Lincoln Park, but he cannot play basketball anywhere for a year — even if he does come back to Monessen.

And for Minnie, a junior with just one year of eligibility left, the decision means his scholastic cage career is over.

“He cannot play any sport he participated in for one year from the time of the transfer,” said Melissa Mertz, associate executive director of the PIAA.

When told that Minnie only had one year of athletic eligibility remaining, she said his high school basketball career is over. She added he can participate in other sports that he did not play in the past for the year.

Monessen Athletic Director Gina Naccarato said the decision was bittersweet, but it was a battle the school district had to fight.

“We certainly don't want to see a kid not get a chance to play basketball. However, it was a blatant case of recruiting for athletic intent and we simply could not stand back and let that happen,” Naccarato said. “I feel sorry for Elijah, but what Lincoln Park did was wrong. We had to stand up against it.”

Monessen basketball coach Joe Salvino said he lays all the blame squarely on Lincoln Park, the defending WPIAL Class A basketball champion, for allowing Minnie to be put in such a precarious situation.

“It's a shame what has happened to this kid,” Salvino said. “This is where people who do things with kids and don't have their best interest at heart should be held accountable. Lincoln Park told his family things that weren't true. These schools tell kids anything they want to hear to get them.

“Lincoln Park wasn't worried about helping Elijah Minnie,” Salvino added. “Lincoln Park was worried about helping Lincoln Park. They didn't care about this kid and now look where he is.”

Minnie started his career at Monessen as a freshman and played in six games, averaging just under 10 points.

Last year, he was sent to Summit Academy, a school for delinquent young men, and averaged 15.5 points per game as he helped lead Summit to a 17-5 record.

When his time was up at Summit, he reverted back to his former school district, Monessen, but instead went to Lincoln Park.

Monessen refused to sign off on the transfer and the WPIAL held a hearing in October, voting unanimously that the transfer was for athletic intent.

Lincoln Park appealed and the PIAA heard the case Thursday. The WPIAL sent a representative to state before the PIAA Board of Appeals why the WPIAL ruled the way it did, and the PIAA agreed.

“We felt we were right and our case was strong,” Naccarato said.

“Maybe now some of these kids who are doing what Elijah did and listening to these schools will see there can be consequences that have to be paid,” Salvino said. “It's a shame he didn't get better advice.”

WPIAL Executive Director Tim O'Malley was unavailable for comment.

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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