Lansdale Catholic is set to join the Catholic League, and as a result, one coach has resigned, another is on his way out, and perhaps more are to follow.
On Friday, the Catholic League's athletic directors voted, 16-1, to accept Lansdale Catholic's application for membership beginning with the 2008-09 school year.
According to Steve Pawlowski, an assistant superintendent with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the move was not initiated by the Office of Catholic Education but was spearheaded by Lansdale Catholic's administration.
"The decision was not ours, although it could have been," Pawlowski said. "They asked to join."
Lansdale Catholic, a member of the Pioneer Athletic Conference for 22 years, is one of three archdiocesan schools that do not compete in the Catholic League. St. Pius X, another PAC-10 member, and the Ches-Mont League's Bishop Shanahan are the others.
When the Catholic League announced in December that it was joining the PIAA - in July as a one-year transitional member and the following year full time - there was growing speculation that the three schools would be absorbed by the 87-year-old league.
However, only Lansdale Catholic - whose application Pawlowski expects to be approved today by the board of governors - is in the fold.
"It's my understanding that Pius [in Pottstown] and Shanahan [Downingtown], because of their proximity, are going to stay where they are," Pawlowski said.
Meanwhile, within the Lansdale Catholic athletic community, the move has been met with fierce opposition.
Maggie deMarteleire, the Crusaders' girls' basketball coach for 16 years, handed in her resignation yesterday, effective immediately. Longtime football coach Jim Algeo - deMarteleire's father - has told the school's administrators that he plans to step down after this season.
In December and February, Lansdale Catholic coaches met with Catholic League officials to discuss the possibility of joining.
"We made it clear there was absolutely no reason to join," deMarteleire said. "We thought it was a dead issue."
The coaches voiced their concerns about a number of issues, chief among them being the level of competition and travel.
"It's not a fair playing field," Algeo said. "They recruit, and they give out financial aid."
Pawlowski said that Catholic League rules forbid recruiting and that no student receives financial aid based on athletic skill.
"That's not to say there aren't students who are athletes that are getting aid based on need," Pawlowski said.
Algeo and deMarteleire contend that traveling into the city is more difficult than to PAC-10 schools, most of which are in northern Montgomery County, even if the distances are similar.
They said they did not learn of the move until Thursday night, the day before Lansdale Catholic athletic director Jon Slabek drove to the Catholic League's athletic directors' meetings in Ocean City, N.J., to hand in the application.
"There isn't a coach who is in favor of this," Algeo said. "And this feeling extends to the parents and community as well."
Slabek declined to comment except to say that the school would issue a statement tomorrow.
Having already devoted so much time to this fall's campaign, Algeo said he would stay on for his 40th season.
"Then I'm resigning," Algeo said, "but I'm not retiring."