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A New Vision for Athletics

June 9, 2018
B Soccer 2017

(PC: Nkenna Ezeano)

This piece originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Stony Brook Bulletin.

In his 1991 Founder’s Weekend address entitled “Athletics with a Vision,” Robin Lingle ’60 spoke about the early pillars of Blue and White athletics and their ability to cast a vision beyond the limiting reality in front of them. Using Hebrews 11:1 as his stillpoint –“To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.”—Lingle discussed how the vision of men like Pierson Curtis, Charles Ruffner, and Clyde Mellinger set a course for Stony Brook athletics in those first years. Mellinger, the school’s first athletic director and coach, was tasked with fielding a football team without the requisite field, goal posts, or uniforms, and with a collection of just twelve boys. Despite the obstacles in front of him, Mellinger fielded Stony Brook’s first athletic team that autumn of 1922. Two years later he would lead them to an undefeated season after beating some of the most powerful teams on Long Island. His ability to see beyond set the course for the next 95 years of Stony Brook athletics.

Twenty-three years after that first fall, the school became a founding member of the Ivy Preparatory School League along with Poly Prep, Horace Mann, and three other schools. During our twenty-seven years in the league we won 49 championships, including a run of fifteen consecutive cross country titles. As Long Island’s population grew and westward traffic increased, we left the Ivy League and joined the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) where we remain to this day. In 44 years we have garnered 170 team championships, including five State Final Fours and a State title. Now, the time has come to once again see beyond our current situation and cast a vision for the next chapter of Stony Brook athletics.

This fall NYSPHSAA unfurled new transfer rules that make it more difficult for our school to not only field competitive athletic teams, but attract students to our school. The policy states that any student who transfers, regardless of grade, must sit out for one year in any high school sport they played at their former school. This is a formidable hindrance to the work of our admissions officers as they seek to bring talented students into our community. There is also a troubling state and national trend toward curbing the potency of private schools in public school leagues through enrollment multipliers, higher classification placement, and outright separation. The time has come for us to set our own course, instead of having one dictated to us.

After over a year of deliberation and research, we have decided to leave NYSPHSAA and join the Private Schools Athletic Association (PSAA) for the 2018-19 academic year. The PSAA was founded in 1986, is under the jurisdiction of the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), and includes Long Island Lutheran, Portledge, Columbia prep, and approximately 30 others schools from Suffolk, Nassau, and New York City.

The PSAA is attractive to our school for a number of reasons. It has a much more flexible transfer rule that will not interfere with the eligibility of incoming students. It offers us the flexibility to go independent with select programs, while remaining in the PSAA with those programs that better fit the competitive balance. It offers a pathway to the NYSAIS state playoffs against competition from such esteemed programs as Poly Prep, Dalton, and Fieldston. It allows us to compete against schools our size, which will offer welcome relief to those programs who currently compete againt some of the largest schools in the state. Lastly, it allows us to recruit outstanding student-athletes so that we may continue to raise the level and profile of our athletic program and our school.

After over four decades in NYSPHSAA, the prospect of a change initially gave us a sense of trepidation; however, after over a year of research and discussion, we are confident that this move will open up possibilities that would never be available to us in our current affiliation. Since 1922 athletics have been an integral piece of a Stony Brook education. Now, under the prompting of an untenable reality in NYSPHSAA, we have a chance to see beyond, for God’s glory and not our own. We need only the faith, courage, and imagination we had in those early days to take the step.

For a preview of the PSAA and its teams click here.

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