Former Meade coach Popielski wanted his day before board


January 30, 2000|By Pat O'Malley | Pat O'Malley,SUN STAFF

Former Meade girls basketball coach Phil Popielski is upset that he and player LaTanya Eldridge were not able to appear before the county Board of Arbitration to answer questions and defend themselves on Jan. 6 when both were suspended.

Annapolis coach Dave Griffith appeared before the board Monday to answer questions on the academic ineligibility of one of his players. No action was taken against him, while the 60-day suspension of Sherika Adams was upheld.

After talking to Griffith, the board was satisfied that an honest oversight had been committed by the coach and administration.

"Neither myself nor LaTanya were asked to come in and prove anything to the Board of Arbitration," said Popielski, who had resigned on Dec. 23 after Meade officials had suspended him for five games for his ejection from a game on Dec. 21.

"Obviously, I had no idea that I was being investigated or indicted for something I had no idea about. It's very interesting the Annapolis [case] was handled differently and that's something I need to let the teachers' association know."

It was determined by the board that Eldridge had not been living legally with her grandmother in the Meade district all four years of high school. She was suspended for the rest of the season with the team forfeiting all the games in which she had appeared over the four years.

Clyde and Velma Eldridge, her parents, had signed the required county "authorization" form using the grandmother's address, but the latter is not her legal guardian.

The form states that the student must reside in the school attendance area to be eligible and places an asterisk next to the word "residing."

On the last line of the first page in bold letters, the asterisk is defined, "Residing means with parents or legal custodians."

Eldridge was doing neither.

Popielski was suspended from coaching in the county for two years. It is interesting that such a serious penalty was doled out with the coach not questioned by the Board of Arbitration.

"The respective school does the presentation [before the board] and can bring anyone they want to the hearing," said county coordinator Marlene Kelly.

"Meade chose to have only their principal [Joan Valentine], assistant principal [Dave Strothers] and athletic director [Sam Pandullo] present."

Strothers said, "We are not allowed to comment on the case because it is a personnel matter," but confirmed the school had conducted an investigation.

Based on the school's findings in a report prepared Dec. 28, the seven-member board ruled that it was Popielski's responsibility to validate the eligibility of his players.

It was the second time the coach was found to have an ineligible player, the other a player living outside the Meade district in the 1995-96 season.

County rules and regulations mention more than once in the athletic handbook that the coach bears that responsibility. One section says, "Eligibility rosters must be prepared by each coach certifying that each squad member satisfies all requirements of the scholastic eligibility code."

Eldridge's parents have appealed to the state and hope to have it heard this week after being postponed last week because of the snow.


The 83-38 romp in boys basketball by No. 2 Annapolis (13-0) over No. 14 Meade (9-4) Friday left the Panthers 39-14 under John Brady against the Mustangs since Meade opened in the 1977-78 season. Point guard Derrick Snowden of No. 5 Archbishop Spalding (11-8) has been chosen for the Capital Classic All-Star Game at the MCI Center on April 11. Top-ranked Towson Catholic's visit to Spalding, postponed last week, has been rescheduled for Feb. 22. With no more dates available at the 5th Regiment Armory, county coordinator Marlene Kelly is looking into the Naval Academy or Essex Community College for the postponed county indoor track championships, but the meet has to be done by Saturday. Kevin Schiavone, who played a major role as assistant coach on Glen Burnie's Class 4A state championship baseball team last spring, has landed a full-time special education teaching job at Annapolis and will assist Larry Brogden with the Panthers baseball team. Have a note or idea for Sidelines? Call Pat O'Malley's 24-hour Sportsline at 410-647-2499.

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