Nine players were removed from the St. Francis Prep girl’s basketball team after their parents held them out of last Tuesday’s game against Christ the King.
The parents refused to let their children board the bus to play the Middle Village school. The parents, upset with the performance of girl’s head coach JoAnn Wagner, previously forwarded a petition asking for Wagner’s dismissal to the school’s principal. The petition was signed by 10 of the team’s 13 players.
When the school refused to remove Wagner, coach of the varsity team for five years following a 30-year run as JV coach, the parents then prevented their children from attending the game, which was postponed until February 17th.
The players returned to practice the following Wednesday to learn that they had been suspended and were asked to turn over their uniforms.
To fill roster spots, three team managers agreed to join the team, along with players from other sports. Only four players from the original team: team captains Aliya Donn, Nevcia Vazquez, Kelly Simon and freshman Katherine Hickman. The team’s roster currently stands at 10.
The parents of the suspended players forwarded a letter to the administration apologizing for their actions.
“Our actions over the past week were irresponsible and thoughtless,” the letter states. “We not only failed, but embarrassed the school, Mrs. Wagner and the team and deeply regret doing so.”
Kevin Clifford, a former coach at St. Francis Prep who is now the head coach at CCNY, spoke out in support of Wagner.
"JoAnn comes from a great basketball family," he said. "They know the game, and the school supported her for good reason. I feel sorry for the girls whose parents should have sat down with the administration of the school before advising the girls not to go to a game.”
Clifford also hopes for a resolution to the issue.
“The girls are 15 and 16 [years old]. I hope administration there comes to a fair conclusion to the matter."
Heading into the makeup game with Christ the King, St. Francis prep is 0-9 in league play. The Terriers finished in last place last season.