Football merger ‘options’ sought, Corinth, Hadley-Luzerne a no-go

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Many members of the Granville Golden Horde football team showed up to the Granville Board of Education meeting on Nov. 8 to listen to Athletic Director Justin Nassivera present the possibility of a football merger with Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne in 2022.

Following a “lengthy conversation” in executive session at its Nov. 8 meeting, the Granville Board of Education decided to continue looking at potential football mergers but rejected pursuing an arrangement with Corinth and Hadley-Luzerne.

“At this time, we feel that Corinth (and Hadley-Luzerne) are not in the best interest of the students,” said board president Audrey Hicks.

The announcement of the rejection comes following a Nov. 4 Strategic Planning Committee meeting and the Nov. 8 Strategic Planning Committee’s presentation at the board meeting, led by Granville athletic director Justin Nassivera, pitching a potential three-way merger between Granville and Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne.

Granville superintendent Tom McGurl announced last May that the Granville/Whitehall football merger originally expected this fall was not going to happen. Nassivera reiterated that McGurl reached out to confirm the Railroaders stance via conversations with Whitehall superintendent Patrick Dee.

“The whole point of doing this presentation is, again, Mr. McGurl and I were tasked a couple years ago to explore merger options. And I know, I’m going to say it, Whitehall’s been the big topic of conversation over the last couple of days,” Nassivera said.

“Mr. McGurl reached out to Whitehall again today and they said they do not have interest in merging. I know that might sound different from other parties but we did reach out and see if that route was open but that route we were informed was no longer available.

“When they backed out a couple years ago (and in May), their reasoning was they were going to try to rebuild their program from the JV level up. That’s what they told us and that’s what they said at their board meeting.”

One of the draws to the proposed merger with Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne mentioned was the decade of coaching experience together Granville head coach John Irion, current Granville assistant coach and former Corinth head coach Justin Culligan and current Corinth head coach Brian Bowe share as a trio, especially during Irion’s rebuild of the Queensbury football program.

Board member Connor Hoagland received a loud showing of approval from those in attendance following his reasoning for why the board should press pause and not make a quick decision.

“One thing I do disagree with is that it’s been alluded to that the coaches are compatible. Compatibility of the staff, likelihood of the compatibility of the offenses, I think we might be missing the boat.

“Although you’ve been touted with the job of finding mutual partners, this is about the kids and what’s best for our student-athletes. I don’t think we should be making decisions, and one of the pilar components of success, the foundational outline that we heard on Thursday and we heard again tonight, the information that has been disseminated to us tonight is that the staff is very compatible. I don’t think anybody would argue that but I don’t know that’s a factor that goes into what’s best for our student-athletes.”

Hoagland touched on the feasibility of commuting the student-athletes to the proposed neutral practice field in Moreau, a 30-35-minute drive from Granville, especially with the bus driver shortage the district is currently facing.

“From a sustainability standpoint, just in our district, we’re touted with transportation issues. I don’t think these things are going away,” Hoagland said. “I would like to reiterate that the community is well-represented and your voices are heard. I think that we can be confident that there are other pathways to get to the result that everyone is expecting. Treating things as a roadblock when they might simply be a speed bump, I think as a board, we will collectively work hard to do that.”

Nassivera’s analysis of returning Granville varsity football players put the team at 19 players, with 16 being the state minimum. The athletic director added that Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne were in the same ballpark, putting the roster close to 40 and potentially moving the team into Section II Class B based on roster size.

Hoagland said other schools in Section II Class D are in the same ballpark roster wise as the Golden Horde.

“If we look at the two of the schools in the final four of Class D, Warrensburg and Chatham, they hover anywhere around 18 and 23, so we’re not up against ‘if we don’t merge, we’re dead in the water.’ That’s not actually the case,” Hoagland said.

Nassivera answered board member Ed Vladyka’s question of how the merger process works by saying that mergers are approved on a year-to-year basis, meaning if Granville were to hypothetically find a partner for the 2022 football season, that does not guarantee they would continue as partners for the 2023 season. This happened in June with Lake George/Hadley-Luzerne.

Rising seniors Brent Perry and Matthew Barlow spoke in front of close to a dozen of their teammates and several parents in the gymnasium bleachers to speak on their personal reasons as to why merging with Corinth/Hadley-Luzerne was bad for them, both because of the travel.

Perry mentioned personal priorities of working a job, paying for gas and not having enough time to do homework while Barlow touched on Granville’s exit from the Wasaren League due to travel concerns then.

“I have a lot of other priorities. You’re basically trying to push me out of my senior year of football, and I see that as a problem,” Perry said. “I would rather play with 18-19 kids than not play at all, and that’s what it’s looking like right now.”

Barlow’s father, Wes, spoke in opposition of the proposed merger as well.

“Nothing against Corinth or Hadley, it’s too far away,” Wes Barlow said. “I’ve spoken to a lot of the kids, they don’t want it. The majority of the parents, I won’t say all, don’t want it. I’m dead set against it.”

Additionally, Vladyka was appointed to replace Susan Perry on the Athletic Committee and the committee was tasked by Hicks to “investigate other football merger options.”