Lansdale Catholic administrators officially announced yesterday that they were accepting an invitation to join the Catholic League for the 2008-09 school year.
Many from within the Crusaders community, however, still feel as though they never received an invite themselves.
What was supposed to be a celebratory day - at least for the administration - turned into a sometimes-contentious debate as the school's president and principal explained their handling of the now-controversial move.
At issue was why the school's coaches, parents and students weren't at least made aware of the administration's decision to apply for membership last Friday. Most of the coaches didn't learn that a move from the Pioneer Athletic Conference was in play until it was leaked Thursday night from the Catholic League athletic directors' meetings in Ocean City, N.J.
"What I would have wanted to be a very deliberate process where everybody was informed, including our parents, simply was not allowed to happen," said Linda Robinson, principal of Lansdale Catholic.
According to Robinson and the Rev. Joseph Maloney, the school's president, the administration had planned to inform the community once the application was approved by the PCL athletic directors (it was, by a 16-1 margin) and the school had told the PAC-10 it was leaving.
For most of the coaches, the issue was tabled after informal meetings attended by administrators, coaches and Catholic League officials in December and February. The coaches overwhelmingly had expressed their opposition to the move.
"We had absolutely no idea this was going to happen," said Jim Algeo, the longtime football coach at Lansdale Catholic. "I was never asked to vote."
Maloney said the decision to join the Catholic League was made a week before the application was delivered to Ocean City by athletic director John Slabek. Only after it became public did the administration e-mail parents on Sunday explaining the decision.
In the e-mail message, reiterated yesterday, the administration pointed to the Catholic League's move into the PIAA as the perfect opportunity for the Crusaders to play alongside other Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools.
Maloney and Robinson said it would enhance the student-athletes' "Catholic identity" and increase media visibility.
Lansdale Catholic is one of three Archdiocesan schools (St. Pius X and Bishop Shanahan are the others) that aren't members of the Catholic League. The Archdiocesan board of governors approved the membership application on Tuesday.
Because he believes that membership will put Lansdale Catholic at a disadvantage on the field and in traveling to games, Algeo has decided to resign after the coming season. Maggie deMarteleire, Algeo's daughter and the girls' basketball coach for 16 years, resigned Monday.
Two of the 18 coaches at Lansdale Catholic attended yesterday's news conference. Bob Shoudt, the track coach, and Kevin Mulligan, the golf coach, said they supported the move.
"Even though I'm supportive, I have questions," Mulligan said.
Brian Mocey is a sophomore at Lansdale Catholic and is on the football and lacrosse teams.
"I think we should have stayed in the PAC-10," Mocey said. "The travel alone won't give us time to even do our homework.
"Most of the students are against it."
Robinson wouldn't say whether Algeo and deMarteleire would be allowed to rescind their resignations. She also wouldn't say whether Algeo, who won a PIAA Class AA state title in 2004, would be asked to step down before his 40th and final season.
"I'm sure it's a possibility," said Algeo, who also teaches at Lansdale Catholic. "The coaching contract is from year to year. They can do anything they want."