Bluebirds hit with WIAA probation

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

In addition to sanctions against its coach, the Janesville high school co-op hockey program will be under increased scrutiny when the 2007-08 season starts after the WIAA placed the team on probation for two years.

The WIAA handed down the penalty because its investigation determined players had been cut in violation of the sanctioning body’s rules for co-op teams.

“The WIAA will place no restrictions upon the regular season or WIAA tournament participation unless new information and/or new violations come to light,” WIAA Deputy Director Dave Anderson said in an Aug. 23 letter to Janesville School District Athletic Director Kevin Porter.

School board president Debra Kolste acknowledged Friday night that the district had received the letter.

“I was not aware of this action, but when I contacted (district director of Administration and Human Services) Steven Johnson today, he said that the team had, in fact, been placed on probation,” Kolste said.

Co-op teams are granted by the WIAA in districts where there is a low turnout for a sport. Since 1991, Craig and Parker high schools in Janesville have fielded a single team—the Bluebirds.

Co-op teams are prohibited from cutting players. When a two-year co-op agreement is initiated and each time it is renewed, the district must acknowledge that it understands all rules for co-op teams and will abide by them.

In the case of the Janesville district, it appears as if neither the coaches nor district administrators knew the rules despite signing the agreement.

“Given that the no-cut caveat has always been clearly stated in the co-op agreement and that as a district you have repeatedly sought approval for this opportunity since 1991, we must flatly reject as not acceptable the suggestion that no coach or administrator knew of the provision,” Anderson said in his letter to Porter. “Further, we believe that the relevant text in this area is clear.”

The text referred to by Anderson reads:

“By our signatures we agree we have as a school administration and school board reviewed and discussed the items indicated on this form. We guarantee a no-cut policy where any interested students will have an opportunity to participate in the requested co-op.”

The Bluebird hockey program came under fire earlier this year after hockey parents complained about coach John Mauermann. The school principals fired Mauermann, but the school board overruled the principals and imposed a five-game suspension and anger management classes on the coach.

Despite a variety of accusations, a district investigation found only that Mauermann used profanity during practices and games. He was cleared of several other accusations including violating the WIAA’s no-cut policy.

In his letter to Porter, Anderson addressed the district’s practice of “counseling out,” in which players unlikely to get much ice time were encouraged to quit the team and play in the youth hockey program.

“We also believe a culture of ‘counseling out’ has been permitted to exist,” Anderson said. “We will not speculate on the rationale and motivation behind that practice.

“Regardless of the reason, the outcome of that culture must be regarded as contrary to the opportunity your district promised to ‘any interested students.’’’

When contacted Saturday, Mauermann said he was unaware of the probation placed on his team by the WIAA.

Mauermann said he would have addressed the matter at a Sept. 26 parent meeting had he known of the sanction.

Mauermann said he has no knowledge of the co-op agreement, other than Porter told him it is signed by the superintendent and the school board president.

“I have never signed such an agreement,” Mauermann said.

One of the parents who initiated the Bluebird complaints, Michael Scieszinski, was also notified of the WIAA sanction.

“I was surprised to get a letter from (WIAA Executive Director) Doug Chickering last month considering I had filed a complaint in February,” Scieszinski said.

“In that Sept. 10 letter, Chickering said the team would be placed on probation, but frankly, given all that’s gone on, I think the penalties could have been stiffer.”

Attempts Friday afternoon to contact school district officials were unsuccessful.

A district spokesperson said administrators were gone for the day and would not be available for comment until Monday.

Last updated: 9:07 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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