Evert takes blame for probation
Superintendent Tom Evert said Wednesday that it’s his fault the Janesville School District’s high school hockey team is on probation.
As reported Oct. 7, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association placed the Bluebirds hockey team on probation because players were cut in 2005 in violation of the rules for co-op teams.
School officials from the coaches up to the athletics director say they weren’t aware of the rule.
A WIAA official questioned those assertions, calling the honesty of district officials into question.
Every two years since 1991, Janesville superintendents and school board presidents have signed an agreement with WIAA that allows the Bluebirds co-op—a combination of Craig and Parker high school players—to exist.
The agreement states: “We guarantee a no-cut policy, where any interested student will have an opportunity to participate in the requested co-op.”
Evert said he was aware of the rule when he signed the agreements.
“It’s my responsibility to be aware and my responsibility to make sure the appropriate manager is enacting the guidelines,” Evert said.
Evert said he isn’t pointing fingers, but after he signed the document, it went to the athletics director, who was responsible for telling the coach.
“In retrospect, I wish I would have called and asked for the message to be sent immediately and directly to the head coach and made sure he was aware,” Evert said. “It could have made life easier for a lot of people.”
Athletics Director Kevin Porter was not in that position when the previous two-year co-op agreement was signed in 2005. Jim Langkamp was the athletic director then.
Contacted at his present job as athletics director at Portage High School, Langkamp would say only: “I have no interest in commenting on that issue at all.”
Dave Anderson, deputy director of the WIAA, said he finds it hard to believe that Janesville officials didn’t know about the no-cut rule.
Anderson sternly rebuked the district in an Aug. 23 letter: “We consider it a reasonable expectation that school administration will take responsibility to educate coaches in all pertinent areas relating to district and WIAA provisions. Given that the ‘no-cut’ caveat has always been clearly stated in the co-op agreement … we must flatly reject, as non-acceptable, the suggestion that no coach or administrator knew of the provision.”
Porter said he is disappointed in the WIAA because the no-cut rule is not in the WIAA handbook, only on the agreement that comes up once every two years.
“Not to make any excuses, but from my standpoint, I couldn’t have been aware of the information,” Porter said.
Anderson also wrote in his letter: “We also believe a culture of ‘counseling out’ has been allowed to exist.”
Counseling out is the practice of telling some players they probably won’t get much playing time and encouraging them to quit and join a club team. That’s something coach John Mauermann did between 1999 and 2006, according to a district investigation last spring.
“Regardless of the reason, the outcome of that culture must be regarded as contrary to the opportunity your district promised to ‘any interested students,’” Anderson wrote.
A disagreement about who knew what and when also surrounds the WIAA’s Aug. 23 notification letter. Porter said he told Mauermann about the probation at a meeting on or about Sept. 10. Mauermann said he doesn’t recall that happening. He said he first heard about it from Porter at a football game Oct. 5.
“Nothing can be done about that,” Evert said of the disagreement. “John says he didn’t know, so that’s where it stops.”
Mauermann and his staff held a meeting with hockey parents Sept. 26. Afterwards, parent Michael Scieszinski wrote a scathing letter to the WIAA, accusing Mauermann of “counseling out” at the meeting.
“He talked at length about how low-skill players will not see ice time in games and might not get much ice time in practice, as well,” Scieszinski said.
Porter said he heard from other parents who were at the meeting who had a completely different take.
“I’ve had several parents come up to me and ask what the district is doing about Mr. Scieszinski harassing and badgering John,” Porter said. “… I’ve got parents that said John did nothing wrong, that he explained there was a no-cut policy, that all people are welcome, but did go on to explain that there is limited ice time. …
“Quite frankly, I don’t understand how that’s counseling out,” Porter said. “That’s like what we do with any other program.”
Mauermann said he did explain that players would incur costs, such as for buying warmups, and that ice time will be limited at times, and the top lines would be on the ice while other lines would sit.
“Our intention was to explain some of the things that are involved, and here’s the program, boys and girls, you’re welcome to play. Come on down.”
Mauermann said he’s proud that every freshman with youth hockey experience is signed up to play this year.
The probation status doesn’t penalize the team unless more information comes to light, according to Anderson’s letter.
The district is required to monitor youth hockey players, determine where those players will attend high school, and report those numbers to the WIAA.
The district must also supply to WIAA a copy of a coach’s handbook that includes an explanation of the no-cut rule.
Porter said the handbook is being revised, and that explanation has not yet been written.