Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Blog: It's Time for the MIAA (Not Holy Name) to Let Kevin Mensah Play

Photo courtesy of ESPN Boston
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

If you follow football in Central Mass at all, you know that All-State running back Kevin Mensah is in a bit of a bind.

After deciding to return to Massachusetts, after briefly trying out Cheshire Academy in Connecticut, Mensah opted to school choice into Shepherd Hill in Dudley, rather than return to Holy Name, the private school in Worcester where he had rushed for over 2,500 yards the last two seasons.

That's when things got complicated.

You see, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association (MIAA) has rules about these sorts of things, and by MIAA rules, any student that transfers from one MIAA member school to another cannot participate in the sports they played at the previous school for at least a year.

For Mensah, a senior, that would mean his high school football career would be over. But, luckily, the MIAA allows players to avoid this one-year suspension, if they can get their previous school (in this case, Holy Name) to sign a transfer waver.

And that's where we're stuck because, heading into Week 2 of the season, Holy Name has still not signed that transfer waver, making Mensah ineligible, and prompting Shepherd Hill coach Chris Lindstrom to refrain from coaching on game nights, in solidarity with his new running back.

On the outside, Holy Name looks like it is displaying some grotesquely sour grapes. After all, Mensah did plenty for the Nap program while he was there, helping them come within a single play of a Division 4 Central championship last season. Furthermore, plenty of these transfer wavers go through every year in the state of Massachusetts (and pretty much every other state), and it is usually a formality for the former school to give its blessing, and allow the player to move on and play elsewhere.

But not so fast, because Holy Name's hands are kind of tied here.

You see, on the MIAA transfer waver, both schools must acknowledge that "The transfer was not done for any reason related to athletics."

That's a problem, because Mensah, a great, hard-working, humble kid, told me this back in mid-August-

"People (may) think (the transfer is) rude, but I know a lot of families out there that cannot pay for college, (so) us athletes who want to play at a higher level gotta do what we can to go to college for free. It's not about football sometimes, it's about your family and your education."

(Editor's Note- I truly wish Kevin had not said those things to me, and I honestly did not know that his simple, honest explanation would cause him any grief)

While Mensah maintains that it wasn't about football, the clear implication in that quote is that Shepherd Hill gave him a better chance to "play at a higher level" and "go to college for free." That's great, except it makes it seem that the transfer was, at least partially, about athletics.

This is why Holy Name can't sign the transfer waver without facing punishment from the MIAA. But, there's nothing stopping the MIAA from granting Mensah eligibility upon appeal, especially since not playing hurts the young man's chances of earning a scholarship.

I would urge the MIAA to grant Kevin Mensah eligibility on the grounds that not doing so would put a free education in doubt. After all, if Mensah were hoping to become a National Merit Scholar, and transferred into a school with better test prep, nobody would tell him he couldn't take that test and earn a scholarship.

But, all of sudden, when we're talking about an "athletic" scholarship, the waters get murky.

But why?

Here is a kid working his butt off to make a better life for himself and his family, and his talent happens to be football. What makes his talent any less valid than somebody going to school on any other kind of scholarship? Why should somebody tell him he can't showcase his talent for prospective colleges, just because he used to use that talent at a different school before this year?

It seems foolish to me, and holding a teenager's feet to the fire over a technicality doesn't seem like the adult response to this. You're essentially punishing a kid for being honest, when we all know transfers happen for athletic reasons ALL THE TIME, mostly benefiting the state's private, Catholic schools.

So, while Holy Name's hands are tied, the MIAA should step up and do the right thing when Mensah's appeal comes up on September 23rd. Declare Mensah eligible to participate immediately, and continue to help high school athletes in the state of Massachusetts achieve their dreams.



Anonymous said...

Rules are rules what makes this kid so special. Real question is why is shepherd hill recruiting kids. It's clear mensah came for Shepherd Hills recent ties to Michigan and BC

Anonymous said...

Joe this fine and dandy for Kevin Mensah, and while I do agree that he should have had the right to play this year, what does allowing him to play say to every other team, school, and kids who followed the rules and didn't transfer cause of it. You can't give special consideration to one player, just because he is so outstanding. The fact he is not playing is on him for not knowing the rules and on others for encouraging him to transfer. Can tell you this wouldn't be a problem if he was playing at Holy Name right now or any other Worcester city school. This whole thing has been fishy from the start. When parents are offering services to kids to get him to transfer to the school it's fishy as heck. Where there is smoke there is fire and rules are rules.

Anonymous said...

Why is Shepherd Hill recruiting kids? Why is St Johns, St Peters, all boston schools, AND HOLY NAME (Emil Igwenagu), and current students in there athletic program including girl basketball players. recruiting kids??? People have no idea whats going on...if you dont know whats going on, keep your mouth shut. MIAA appeals waivers THROUGHOUT THE STATE EVERYDAY. The kid is being punished for screwing his old program, and there telling this kid we will screw you back...and the board of central mass MIAA includes a Holy Name Alum so there screwing him also. I feel bad for this kid...him and his family do not deserve this...everygame out hurts his future

Anonymous said...

Do some research before you opine. Why did he choose to go to Cheshire, then back out? Who suggested he leave HN and go to SH? Why in this day and age of HUDL and nation-wide recruiting, did he think his stock would rise at SH over HN? This poor kid has been getting bad advice from the "adults" he has aligned himself with. This should be a lesson for all HS athletes of the dangers of social media, over-hype, and self-aggrandizement at the expense of your team. Did the SH coach and/or AD know the rules, or just ignore them? Maybe the whole adults-on-Twitter-tracking-HS-athletes crowd ought to stop pumping up individuals and emphasize the team in team sports? Enough of the Elite 7 on 7 "One Mississippi" All-Stars, and the bad advice they offer at an exorbitant for your home town team with your friends..believe me, if you are good enough, they will find you!

Anonymous said...


I think your article needs to be printed in the Worcester Telegram since Holy Name is taking all the backlash about not signing Kevin Mensah's waiver. I presently have a student athlete attending HN and he has always been treated fairly by the administration and Athletic Director Jim Manzello.. All these FB and Twitter followers always chime in with their comments without never knowing both sides of the story! HN alumn and parent..

Anonymous said...

MIAA needs to lighten up once again. No one cares about the Everett transfer who is repeating at Xaverian. A kid who didn't likely didn't even live in Everett before the transfer. You think this was for academic reasons or was he tired of losing to Xaverian? MIAA turns blind eye when they want to. You want to teach kids about real life? In real life people switch colleges, jobs, etc. for better opportunities.

Anonymous said...

First of all Holy Name is the school that needs to recruit athletes not Shepherd Hill. In the 5 yrs I've had kids attending Shepherd Hill, I have never seen any type of recruitment. We have a talented football team and other sports teams that regularly turn out Division I athletes. So I would say no recruitment is needed. And I know when a student athlete moves on to a better opportunity, the whole Shepherd Hill community supports that child to wherever they end up whether it be St. John's, Holy Name, St. Peter Marian, Worcester Academy etc. I have never seen Shepherd Hill deny a student a waiver. This is plain and simple vindictive. What you have is grown adults on a major power trip and all the end result is a child and his future being hurt. Student athletes transfer to other schools all the time and play on a waiver. It is a regular occurrence. The only reason you are hearing about this is because Holy Name is refusing to sign it because they are pissed they lost their headliner. Lets hope the MIAA which has the power to do the right thing here, does the right thing. Massachusetts athletes have a hard enough time making it in the Division I world.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone want their names printed

Anonymous said...

Why is Coach Lindstrom not coaching game nights? "Solidarity" for a kid who has been there two weeks, and admittedly came there solely for football? That is a clear violation of explicit MIAA rules..maybe Coach should have read the rules, or secured the waiver before KM started pre-season practice? That is standard operating procedure. Either way, KM would have an option that he doesn't have now. What about the other kids on SH team? Do they have to suffer through games with an understudy coach, one who decided to go for it on 4th and 2 on their own 32 with 1:37 left in the 2Q? Do they not deserve Coach's full efforts at the job he is paid to do? Admirable loyalty, but perhaps misplaced. This is a problem of their own making. What message do you send to the kids at SH who have carried bags, played JV, grown up through the system? Time to worry about the kids on the field more than the kids off it!

Anonymous said...

I need clarification. First of all, in his quote, Kevin referred to a higher level of play. I assume he meant continuing his education and athletics into college.... Not referring to Shepard Hill. Also, did he have this direct conversation with anyone from Holy Shame(oops, I mean Name)? If not, how are Holy Name's hands "tied?" If he didn't speak directly to Holy Name, then the school should be ignorant to his situation and sign the waiver. How did what he said get into the hands of HN? Hmmmm...... Words can be taken out of context and interpreted to suit the needs of others. That's what it looks like to me. HN is using his words to ruin his dream, and crying victim and playing the "there isn't anything we can do about it" card. Typical.