Central Catholic basketball coach avoids 1-year suspension, must sit 2 games

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 | 6:02 PM

Central Catholic boys basketball coach Brian Urso avoided a one-year ban for recruiting, but the WPIAL still wants him suspended for a scrimmage and two regular-season games next season.

If Urso isn’t suspended, his team will be barred from the playoffs, WPIAL executive director Tim O’Malley said Wednesday, after the first-year coach and school administrators attended a hearing in Green Tree.

The WPIAL concern stemmed from contact Urso had with eighth-grade students, both through open gyms and emails sent to them. The students also were offered reduced rates for a basketball camp at Robert Morris, where Urso worked as director of basketball administration.

However, Central Catholic administrators testified Wednesday that the messages were sent only to students who already were registered to attend the high school in the fall, O’Malley said.

“The board could not substantiate or establish the fact that recruiting actually occurred,” O’Malley said. “There were some red flags, there were some concerns, but those concerns didn’t rise to the level (of a one-year suspension) in the board’s eyes.”

The WPIAL cannot suspend coaches but can demand that a school does.

The open gyms were a problem because “there are a number of kids from a number of schools that were invited,” O’Malley said.

The Pittsburgh Diocese is expected to submit each year to the PIAA a list of feeder schools that “feed” students into each Catholic high school. Urso would be permitted to contact eighth graders from those feeder schools, but no current list was submitted, O’Malley said.

“The intent behind the feeder school list is to provide equal opportunity for the private schools to have access to the kids going from eighth to ninth grade like the public schools do,” O’Malley said.

Urso was hired in April.

The WPIAL could have suspended him for one year if it found him in violation of recruiting rules. Instead, the board chose to limit his punishment to two games and one scrimmage.

“Was there smoke in there? Absolutely,” O’Malley said. “(The WPIAL board) could not establish fire.”

In addition to Urso’s discipline, the Central Catholic’s athletic administration was censured for failing to provide a current list of feeder schools to the PIAA. The boys basketball program was placed on probation for one year.

“We agree with the WPIAL’s finding that no recruiting violation was made,” said Brother Tony Baginski, Central Catholic’s principal. “While we are disappointed with the ruling related to playoff participation and potential suspension, we are evaluating whether or not an appeal to the PIAA is appropriate at this time.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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