Once again, Popielski has his problems at Meade


January 09, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

For the second time in four years, the Meade girls basketball team has to forfeit games because of an ineligible player under the watch of departed coach Phil Popielski.

Standout senior captain LaTanya Eldridge, who has been living in the Meade district with her grandparents since seventh grade, has been deemed ineligible because her grandparents are not her legal guardians.

Eldridge is suspended for the rest of the season, and Meade must forfeit all the games she played in over the past four years, including last year's first region championship win since 1979.

In his sixth season as head coach, Popielski announced his surprising resignation two weeks ago after he had been suspended for one game because of an ejection in a previous game.

Popielski cited "family issues," along with "other issues" he didn't want to get into, as his reasons for stepping down, but sources say he was disappointed the school planned to levy a five-game suspension against him.

Pointing to his wife, Stephanie, expecting their third baby and wanting to spend more time with his family, Popielski showed up and sat in the stands to watch Meade play during a Christmas tournament the day after his resignation.

And just this week, Popielski agreed to become a volunteer assistant coach with the UMBC women's team, so apparently he has worked out the "other issues."

Popielski's additional penalty is believed to have stemmed from the school's investigation into Eldridge, which resulted in her sitting out a game during the holidays. His 1995-96 team had to forfeit 11 games because of a player living outside the Meade district, thereby nixing a 17-8 season and what would have been the school's first winning team since 1990.

It's the responsibility of the coach and school to verify the residency of student/athletes, and sources at the school said the administration found it inexcusable that such a problem had occurred a second time under Popielski.

But it's interesting that the county and Meade administration, none of whom is commenting, reinstated Eldridge, then suspended her.

Popielski's wife said yesterday that her husband was unavailable to comment because he "was out of state until [today]."

Eldridge, a third-team All-County forward as a junior, was suspended by the Anne Arundel County Board of Arbitration with this year's 6-3 record adjusted to 2-7.

The crux of it is students must live with their parent or parents, or legal guardian or guardians in a specific district to attend school in that district, unless they are 18 and self-supporting.

Eldridge had transferred from Old Mill Middle School to MacArthur Middle, where Popielski teaches U.S. history, when she was in the seventh grade. At that time, she moved in with her grandparents.

For her to be eligible to attend school at MacArthur or Meade, the grandparents needed to become her legal guardians. It never happened and has led to this unfortunate mess that could have been avoided had Popielski, once again, done his homework.

Hall of Famer

Glen Burnie's Frank "Jocko" Svoboda, who has been in amateur baseball as a coach and umpire for more than 50 years, will be inducted into the Oldtimers Baseball Association Hall of Fame on Jan. 28 at the Delcapri in Dundalk.

Svoboda, 73, who coached Hall of Famer Al Kaline when the latter was a teen-ager, has remained active in Anne Arundel County sandlot baseball as an umpire and commissioner of the county fall baseball league for high school players.

Two other locals to be honored for their contributions to baseball at the Oldtimers banquet are Arundel's Bernie Walter, and The Sun's 1999 metro baseball Coach of the Year, Al Frank, a Glen Burnie resident who led Archbishop Curley to the MIAA A Conference title.


In case you missed it, top-ranked Archbishop Spalding (7-6) dropped its first Baltimore Catholic League game, 55-45, at Goretti in Hagerstown on Friday night. North County's Jerome Goodman posted a rare triple-double with 16 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists in the Knights' 76-58 victory at Chesapeake on Friday. Can you believe the Broadneck boys are 0-9? It shows that even an excellent coach like Ken Kazmarek can't win if you don't have the players. Severna Park head coaching vacancies: gymnastics, tennis and volleyball. To apply, call athletic director Wayne Mook at 410-544-7462. Hank Schorreck, Glen Burnie boys lacrosse coach, is looking for assistants. Call 410-437-7205.

Have a note or idea for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647-2499.

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