Pontiac Notre Dame Prep suspended from Catholic League

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep suspended from Catholic League

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Pontiac Notre Dame Prep suspended from Catholic League

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Pontiac Notre Dame Prep has been suspended from the Detroit Catholic League for at least the 2016-17 school year for failing to agree to play a crossover football game against Birmingham Brother Rice.

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep jersey

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep jersey

As a result, ND Prep will be prohibited from playing against any Catholic League school in any sport, unless they meet in a state tournament game.

This is the first time a full-time member of the league has been suspended.

Because scheduling nonconference football games is so difficult, particularly for Central Division schools, the Catholic League’s executive board supported a plan that required member schools to play one crossover game against school from a bigger division.

“They said they’re not going to play it, would we allow them to not play football in the Catholic League for a year?’’ said Catholic League director Vic Michaels. “The board was skeptical of allowing that because of the precedent it would set for anyone else who didn’t like whatever schedule we gave them.’’

Longtime ND Prep athletic director Betty Wroubel cited safety concerns as the reason for the refusal to play Brother Rice.

Notre Dame Prep was 8-3 last season and has made the Division 4 state playoffs in four of the last five seasons, winning a state playoff game each time. ND Prep, a co-ed school, has 728 students. An all-boys school, Brother Rice, which plays in Division 2 in the state playoffs, has 639 students.

“With everything that’s popping out now with concussions, etc., we feel it’s a mismatch at this point in the game,’’ she said. “While our program is continually getting better, there’s just such a difference in the speed and the bigger, faster, stronger athletes. Can we sleep with ourselves at night if we’re knowingly putting our kids in a nonsafe environment?’’

Wroubel said school officials hoped that the Catholic League would not take any action until a committee to solve the scheduling problems could meet.

But this has been a problem for years, and it appears to be a problem without an easy solution.

“We met with the school presidents twice this year to come up with this schedule, and everybody agreed except one,’’ Michaels said. “We didn’t just pull this out of a hat. They had discussed it in two separate meetings, and people knew what the consequences were going to be.’’

Last spring, Detroit Loyola coach John Callahan, also from the Double-A, said he would not permit his team to play Warren De La Salle, a Central Division school, in a crossover game. The game eventually was played, with De La Salle winning, 23-12.

The consequences will be felt by every athlete in every sport at Notre Dame Prep, which now will have to fill empty schedules.

Wroubel said that ND Prep players suffered career-ending injuries when Prep was forced to play Novi Detroit Catholic Central three times in the mid-2000s.

“It’s about one football game,’’ Wroubel said. “I talked to coach Pat Fox, who I highly respect and comes so highly regarded: ‘Can we play this game to help the league out?’ He said we’re just not physically ready to keep up with them. It would just be wrong. He thinks it’s unsafe.’’

According to the plan, ND Prep also would play a game against a school from the smaller Intersection I Division.

“It’s not just the playing up, it’s the playing down, too,’’ said ND Prep assistant AD Maureen Radulski. “It’s about not just our kids, it’s about all the kids. We would never go and do this to another program that they wanted us to go and play a crossover the other way.’’

Michaels said there are no winners in this case.

“We lose a good member in Notre Dame Prep, and their student-athletes lose the opportunity to compete in the Catholic League, which is a pretty good league,’’ he said. “We offer them a lot of things from our honor teams to our scholar-athlete banquets to so many things those kids will lose out on.’’

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