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Pace Caught in the Crossfire of Section 1’s Controversial Decision

Section+1%27s+decision+to+move+the+men%27s+and+women%27s+basketball+championships+to+the+Goldstein+Fitness+Center+has+sparked+outrage.+Photo+Courtesy+of+Pace+U+Athletics.+
Section 1's decision to move the men's and women's basketball championships to the Goldstein Fitness Center has sparked outrage. Photo Courtesy of Pace U Athletics.

Section 1's decision to move the men's and women's basketball championships to the Goldstein Fitness Center has sparked outrage. Photo Courtesy of Pace U Athletics.

Section 1's decision to move the men's and women's basketball championships to the Goldstein Fitness Center has sparked outrage. Photo Courtesy of Pace U Athletics.

Kwadar Ray, Sports Editor

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Pace University will host the Section 1 2018 boys and girls basketball championships beginning on March. 2, 2018.

Section 1, a section of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), announced the decision via press release last Monday to move the event from the county center to Pace’s Goldstein Fitness Center.

The move has sparked an immense amount of criticism from the Westchester community with regards to the decision to move the championships from the venue that hosted it for nearly every year since 1933.

“They’re disrupting history,” said Saunders High School men’s basketball head coach and Pace alumni Anthony Nicodemo. “They’re not moving it from a place where it’s been played once. It’s been almost 80 years, so you’re moving something that people feel connected to.”

“The entire basketball community revolves around the county center,” Nicodemo said. “People don’t talk about winning the championship, they talk about getting to the county center. It’s a destination and a goal for players to reach. Any disruption of that is going to anger and upset people, and I think that’s what we’re seeing now.”

Section 1 did not consult with any coaches or athletic directors before making the move.

Nicodemo believes there were “shady” dealings, ego and money involved with the decision.

“At the end of the day, people sitting up in glass houses who really have no interaction with the coaches or the kids think they know best, and they don’t,” he said. “The Section 1 office has very little interaction with the coaches or the kids. You should be going to the people on the front lines when there’s any decision like this, and they chose not to.”

Brandon Collins, a junior at Pace, said while he was a member of Walter Panas High School’s basketball team, Section 1’s higher-ups did not have a relationship with the players.

“We didn’t know too much about them, how things [was] set up, or how they ran things,” said Collins, who played in the county center twice, helping Walter Panas win the championship in 2014.

Despite all the controversy, Pace’s associate AD Mike Winn says the university is proud of its relationship with Section 1, and looks forward to hosting the championships, which takes place March 2-4.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Section 1 athletics,” Winn said. “We’ve been hosting different events of theirs and different championships of theirs in the past.”

Athletic Director Mark Brown says his goal is to maintain a good relationship with the community. Brown thinks the event will be a success.

“We pride ourselves on being a good community partner and we do host a lot of high school events here, and I think that our institution does that extremely well,” Brown said. “So, I’m excited about the opportunity to host this event, as well as I am about hosting all events we’re able to bring to our community.”

“We’ll run a top-notch championship that weekend and give those high school athletes and coaches an opportunity to compete at the highest level at a great venue,” Winn said. “We’re confident that it’s going to be a great experience.”

Winn also said the event will mostly be occurring during the weekend, with the expectation that the campus won’t be packed with students, faculty and staff.

“It’ll start during the evening, so most of faculty and staff will be gone,” Winn said. “The majority of the games will occur on Saturday and Sunday. So, it’s not as if it’s happening during classes. The parking lots should be empty and we’ll make sure there’s no other major events happening on campus.”

However, Nicodemo believes Pace is caught in the crossfire of this unpopular move and no matter what, the public will be upset at the change.

“Pace could host the best event ever and people are going to find fault in it because you’re taking away a beloved venue, and I think Section 1 is setting Pace up for failure here because people are going to find fault in everything that goes on due to the way this went down,” he said. “As beautiful as the Goldstein Fitness Center is, it’s not the county center. Pace was put in a really bad spot and that’s not fair to the university.”

Winn said he is aware of the anger the move has caused and he understands why many are upset.

“We can respect people’s emotions, but we hope they trust we’re going to run a great event for them,” he said.

There are fingers from all over being pointed at Section 1. Coaches, ADs, and even politicians like Westchester County state senator George Latimer have made statements denouncing the decision.

“Not happy with the decision to take Section 1 Basketball Playoffs out of the County Center,” Latimer wrote. “It’s a time honored tradition.”

However, those who are most affected by the move are the student athletes.

“The atmosphere is crazy at the county center, it’s just a staple within Section 1 and the basketball championships,” Collins said. “For me, when my older brother played there when he was in high school and I went there to see that game, I wanted to be there and luckily I did make it there. But now, a lot of players who had that goal won’t be able to fulfill it.”

Nicodemo said when his players were notified of the decision, they were frustrated.

“My players are certainly upset,” Nicodemo said. “These groups of players were here as sophomores when [Saunders High School] got to play in the county center during the semi-finals last time, and I think we have a shot to get there this year once again so they’re pretty disappointed. It’s kind of the coach’s job to refocus them but I don’t think it’s a player in Section 1 not disappointed by this decision.”

Nicodemo advised those upset about the decision to speak up and let their voices be heard.

“If every single high school and every AD walks in and say ‘this is unacceptable,’ then Section 1 is kind of in a box,” he said. “The hope is that the coaches get to their ADs and they can band together and let the higher-ups of Section 1 know that this is not something we’re going to accept.”

Nicodemo believes social media is the right platform for he and others to express their dissatisfaction.

“With social media, people can express their anger and hopefully, the higher-ups in Section 1 can swallow their pride a little bit and understand that they made a mistake. And make no bones about it, this is a mistake.”

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