red lion christian

Note from Irish Jack Ireland.

 Sorry for the long delay since I posted my first blog. I had some things to work out and now I’m definitely ready to go. I plan to post every Wednesday. If there is a problem, I will post a note saying so. If things of interest pop up other days of the week- I may be sending some short blogs out as well.

Tonight, I am expressing some feelings that have been building up for the last 16 months, concerning our friends at Red Lion Christian Academy. I took a long time to think this over, but my mind is made up…I am going to comment on the News Journal article, written by my former collegue Kevin Tresolini, on July 15. The article is concerning Red Lion Christian Academy being allowed, to recruit players and offer scholarships in boys football and boys basketball by the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association.

First thing that came to mind, ‘Has executive-director Kevin Charles, and the entire DIAA board lost its mind?’ The measure passed the DIAA board by a vote of 10-2. For some reason, I don’t know why, Wilmington Christian athletic director, Pam Love, abstained from voting. May be the word, Christian has something to do with it.

As far as Charles goes, that’s not the case at all. This has all been allowed to happen because the crew of lawyers Mr. David Sills IV (and pressure from other political contacts) has made it close to impossible for Charles to stop this onsalught that started at least two years ago.

David Sills, the chief private benefactor in this athletic scheme, has put so much pressure on Charles and his assistant Tom Neubauer, they have no where to turn.

This all started a couple years back when so-called seventh grade quarterback phenom David Sills (son of Mr. Sills), made national headlines. ESPN television reported that he had reached a verbal agreement to attend the University of Southern California on a full athletic scholarship when he finished high school. Now remember he was only in junior high when this all happened.

That’s also about the time Charles started to receive calls and letters, charging illegal recruiting and other DIAA rules violations were taking place with the Red Lion football program.

It’s no secret, Mr. Sills is a major force behind this brash and abrasive move (politically and financially) to bring in underprivledged youth from inside and outside of the state to give Red Lion powerhouse football and basketball teams. Helping minority students is one thing, but doing it to for selfish reasons is something else entirely.

Certainly not all, but many of these kids have had excellent football and basketball credentials.

He’s pouring tons of money into the athletic program (especially football). Red Lion wants to be a national high school power, seen on ESPN television with his son, Dave Sills, leading the way.

I wonder when young David finishes at Red Lion, will all that money keep pouring in.

My biggest question to the administrators, atheltic directors, coaches, school board and church board members at Red Lion is, how in the world can you let this go on.? You are making a sham of high school athletics in this state. I think you should drop the word Christian and just say Red Lion Academy. This is, of course in my opinion, a total disgrace.

There’s nothing Christian-like about this kind of terrible and arrogant berhavior you have shown over the last 16 months.

We all know by now that Red Lion got caught last year with its hand in the cookie jar. Charles and the DIAA found Red Lion guilty of a number of rule violations, from recruiting players, excessive practices and playing too many middle school games when our phenom David was the quarterback.

Unfortunatey, there are several other issues that were tough to get people to speak up on the record, especially questions about academic issues regarding the players. I understand several of the players first were recruited to Red Lion in the past few years failed out of school.

But, thanks to pressure from the Sills’ lawyer squad, Red Lion got a little slap on the wrist from DIAA last year and agreed not to play in the 2011 Division II state tournament if it qualified.

The new ruling says that no Red Lion officials will be barred from attending football or basketball games between two Delaware schools.

Oops- there goes a few more players heading to Red Lion.

What is the DIAA thinking about? Last year the DIAA found Red Lion with its hand in the till as a member of the association. Illegal recruiting was proven, yet nobody wanted to stand up against this beligerent group of people who think they can do whatever they feel is good for them.

The good thing is Red Lion is no longer a full DIAA member. It won’t be allowed to play Delaware schools, once it finishes up with the instate teams that are now on its football and boys basketball schedule in 2011-12. My opinion is those schools should show some guts and drop Red Lion like a bad habit. Even if it means coming up a game or two short,. Show some backbone.

The other thing that gauls me is Red Lion will be allowed to play 13 games and start preseason practice on Aug. 1, two weeks before the full DIAA member schools can. If Red Lion is going to still  be a DIAA associate member, it should not be allowed any favors like this.

Oh yes, the boys basketball squad can play 30 games to have spring football. All other sports teams will be allowed to play Delaware schools.

I would also like to say here, I am not just some “johnny come lately’, to Delaware and scholastic athletics.

I spent over 40 years (34 1/2 of those at the News Journal) before I retired on Feb. 18. Growing up in Wilmington I started following high school sports, thanks to my father Sam Ireland, from the time I was about 10 years old.

There are a few people I would personally like to commend for standing up against this injustice to athletics in Delaware.

Heading that list is Middletown coach Mark DelPercio, president of the Delaware Interscholastic Football Coaches Association. In that News journal article, DelPercio stands up big-time and said about Red Lion –  “They’re not saving kids. They’re using them.”

He also feels DIAA has turned a blind eye to what Red Lion has been doing (breaking rule after rule) since the David Sills era began. DelPercio is on the record saying that Red Lion tried in the past to recruit some of his prospective Middletown players.You can count on that happening again Mark. Be on guard.

DelPercio went as far as to say in the Journal story, “I think it’s a shame they (Red Lion) exist and function in the state.”

Kudos also go to Caesar Rodney football coach and athletic director Mike Schoenwolf , who has spoken out strongly against this Red Lion ruling.

I also want to commend board members Woody Long and and Sue Coffing. Long, a long time coach and administrator at Sussex Central High is a class guy. I’ve known Woody a long time and he’s a man of character.

He knows what’s right and stood up against something that hurts the overall reputation of scholastic sports in Delaware. Coffing, a public member of the board, thinks this will lead to a ‘trickle-down effect’ where student-athletes playing other sports may also transfer because of the national rep Red Lion could get from those two programs.

I don’t understand at all, the comments by Smyrna’s Ron Eby. I’ve known Ron for over 35 years and he was quoted in the article as saying, “So, there’s no doubt maybe that’s the way to go.”

The Ron Eby I knew would have stood strongly against anything like that when he was the wrestling coach and athletic director at Smyrna. Sure, times have changed, but different times don’t mean caving into Red Lion is the right way to go morally and educationally.

Before ending, I admit I was a little disappointed Bill DiNardo, football coach at Salesianum, didn’t take a harder stand against Red Lion. DiNardo, who I truly believe is one of the top three coaches in the state by far, feels it’s okay for Red Lion to go in this direction as long as doesn’t effect the other schools in Delaware.

I like to compare the Red Lion situation to that girlfriend or close friend who turned against you or went back on their word two, three times or more. Then, they tell you everything has changed and will be fine between the two of you if you allow that person  to do things their way. You burn me once, you burn me twice, but not a third time.

Bill, you know the respect I have for you, but be on your guard my friend. Salesianum players, CYO eighth graders planning to enroll at Sallies,St. Mark’s, St. Elizabeth, Middletown, CR, Dover, Newark, Sussex Central, William Penn, Archmere, and on and on, will be on Red Lion radar somewhere. In fact, every coach and A.D. in the state should be vigiliant.

Don’t dare trust a school that didn’t even think it was doing anything wrong this time last year.

I hope Red Lion does show class and moral fiber, stay away from Delaware high school athletes. Go ahead and recruit your players from outside the state. Let the in-state kids come to you on their own before any recruiting or scholarship talk begins.

I just don’t think that is in the athletic thinking of the administrators or coaches at Red Lion

Lets hope and pray for the best. Sounds like I’m hoping for some real Christian behavior here.


Gene Alessandrini tribute

I would like to write my first blog about the late Gene Alessandrini, who passed away on July 8 after a courageous battle against cancer.

I first met Mr. Alessandrini in late summer of 1957, trying to survive as a fifth grader on the St. Thomas Catholic School football team.

The head coach was Joe Conaway, a man I have great respect for to this day. Joe was a friend of our family and talked me into coming out for the team. In those days we had just a varsity team.

I learned very quickly how special a person and a youth coach Gene was. I was kind of scared to death as a 105 pound lineman trying to survive. While I was only in the fifth grade, Joe and Genie were not going to baby me.

Coach Alessandrini, however, also made sure I didn’t get broken in half during live drills. I learned so much about football, teamwork and being responsible under these two young men.

Gene and Joe were perfect coaches for every player in the program. They had attended St. Thomas, Salesianum and Villanova University.

I think I played in just one game that season (we didn’t play more than about five or six), but it was great. Gene was teaching me the proper ways to block, tackle things like pulling into the right holes from my guard position on offense. He was like a co-head coach, thinking right alon the lines of Conaway. The kids were what mattered to Gene and Joe. We also had some very good talent. but St. Elizabeth and St. Hedwig’s were like high school squads (size and talent) back then. Believe me, no lie.

Gene Alessandrini went on to enjoy a remarkable career as a teacher, administrator, coach, football and softball official and a member of the Delaware Secondary School Athletic Association board of directors. Most important he was a beloved husband, father, grandfather and friend and mentor to so many…

He started his teaching and coaching career at the old Corpus Christi High, the same place Conaway began.

Gene soon became a pillar of the St. Mark’s High family, spending 41 years there. He was truly loved and respected.

A couple years back when I would stop at Christiana Hospital to vistit my longtime friend Joe’ ‘Neill, who was also battling cancer with everything he had, I always ran into Coach Alessandrini. Gene was a close, close friend of Joe, who passed away two years ago.

Gene told me about his earlier bout with cancer and how he worried about a return. Yet, Gene didn’t start to complain or feel sorry for himself. Anyone who was touched in the least way by Mr. “A” (and there were thousands over the years) knew that was not going to happen.

Gene Alessandrini loved education and athletics. He felt strongly that education went beyond the classroom onto the playing field. He stressed the complete package for students and that is why he was so popular with the students for more than 40 years.

Gene and I weren’t close friends, but I had such respect for him. Probably more than he realized. He was a big horse racing fan and I would see him at the track from time to time when I was covering the action for the News Journal.

Gene continued to call me Jackie throughout the years. That bond I struck up with him as a little skinny 11 year old stuck with me to this day.

“Mr. “A” as his students knew him, “Coach Alessandrini”, Mr. Alessandrini and then Gene at his insistence, as I called him,  was a “CLASS ACT.”

And oh yea Gene, thanks for your coaching, friendship and mentoring 54 years ago. I went on to play four years at St. Thomas, starting my last two. It would never have happened without Coach “A”

Rest in peace my friend. Irish Jack.