There was elation on at least one side when the WPIAL Board of Control made its rulings on transfers Patrick Frey and Toni Spossey public Tuesday morning.
Frey, a football and baseball player who transferred from Trinity to McGuffey on Feb. 27, was declared eligible to participate in all sports after the board declared the transfer was not motivated by athletic intent.
Instead, by ruling the way it did, the board sided with the Frey family, which insisted the move was made to enroll the junior in McGuffey’s agricultural education program.
“I knew why we were really there,” said Patrick Frey’s mother, Caroline. “I just knew I had to prove it to some people and get them to see my side of the story.”
Spossey must sit out a year of softball, per the board’s finding that her transfer from Trinity to Chartiers-Houston was at least partially motivated by athletic intent. She’s eligible to participate in all other sports and would be able to play softball again starting Jan. 22, 2014 – one year from her date of transfer.
Spossey’s father, Wray, declined comment Monday, and efforts to reach the family Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Both hearings took place at the WPIAL offices in Green Tree Monday, Spossey’s lasting around 45 minutes, Frey’s close to an hour. Decisions were reached that night, though the league would not release any information until Tuesday morning.
The hearings were closed to the media, per the parents’ request, and WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley directed any specific comment on the board’s decisions to the individual parties and schools.
Trinity principal Don Snoke, who was present for both hearings Monday, referred all media inquiries to superintendent Paul Kasunich, who declined comment.
Asked whether Trinity would appeal the WPIAL’s decision to the PIAA, Kasunich responded, “I would say I have no comment on that.”
Chartiers-Houston principal Phil Mary did not return a phone message. McGuffey principal Mark Bonus declined comment and directed all contact to superintendent Beverly Arbore.
“For the student’s sake, we’re pleased,” Arbore said. “It’s our understanding, as advised in our school code, that students in neighboring districts that wish to participate in our agricultural education program may apply to do so. If we would refuse those students, then they can appeal that.”
Arbore later added, “We’re pleased that the student can come to the program and engage in all the full-time activities that all of our students engage in.”
Caroline Frey said Patrick first brought up an interest in agriculture at the beginning of his sophomore year, though she never considered requesting a transfer. But after hearing her son talk about the program more and meeting with Renee Cambruzzi, an agriculture teacher at McGuffey, Caroline Frey changed her mind.
“I just had to finally listen to him,” Caroline Frey said. “I wish in hindsight I would have listened to him years ago, but I didn’t. I didn’t believe him.
“I used to have to move a lot growing up, and I never wanted to move my kids around.”
According to Arbore, Cambruzzi is currently responsible for teaching seven classes, covering such topics as greenhouse production, horticulture and animal science. Those seven, rotating courses include 112 instructed slots – meaning some students account for more than one.
Caroline Frey remembers joking with her sisters about “growing up in a greenhouse,” a nod to her father’s obsession with trees and plants.
“I used to be scared in my neighborhood growing up that a kid would walk across the lawn and make footprints,” Caroline Frey said. “It’s ridiculous, I know, but I’m used to all that stuff.”
The Board of Control hearing – inside a crowded office, surrounded by a 16-member committee – did not rattle the family, Caroline Frey said. They were confident in what they had to say.
“I think the people in the room believed me because I was telling the truth,” Caroline Frey said. “I’m just happy that he gets to now explore the endeavors and education that he really wants to do. Anything that happens to come along with it is just a perk for him.”
As a running back, Frey rushed for 940 yards and 10 touchdowns while helping Trinity to a 5-5 record and a berth in the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs this past fall.
Though Trinity can still appeal the ruling to the PIAA, O’Malley said such an occurrence would be extremely rare.
“In my tenure here, the only appeals that have ever gone are the ones that were denied,” O’Malley said, talking about instances where a student’s athletic eligibility was denied entirely. “Nobody from the sending school, in my tenure, has ever requested an appeal for that.”