Dallas Soccer DFW

Academy players miss Keller's signing day event

Published 2/2/2012 10:30:17 AM by brent shirley from star-telegram.com

A quartet of soccer players gathered Wednesday afternoon at the Keller Soccer Association building to finalize their scholarships on National Signing Day.  Earlier during school hours, Keller High School football players and other athletes were at a school-sponsored signing ceremony.

A new USSF rule prohibits its academy players from high school level competition in order to accommodate the organization's 10-month schedule. Because club tournaments attract college scouts and scholarship offers, J.T. Kotowski (Bradley University signee), Kyle Pujats (St. Edward's), Zach Mathers (Duke) and Ryan Condatta (Old Dominion) had to pass on the UIL game.

"Obviously I had to play academy," said Kotowski, who lettered for three years at Keller. "Even though I wanted to finish my high school career, there's no exposure collegiately if you play just high school." Keller schools athletic director Bob DeJonge said Wednesday's district activities were for athletes who participate in school-sponsored sports. "I applaud those players for their success," DeJonge said. "But the process that we go through for having scholarship signing day ceremonies are for kids who are currently in our programs."

After making their decision, the four Keller seniors, with 12 varsity letters between them, have had to answer constant questions from classmates who think they abandoned their team.

"People say we've already committed to playing for these colleges, why don't we just quit the academies and play high school," Mathers said. "But those college coaches want to see us play at the highest level possible as long as they can."

The situation is frustrating for area coaches as well, who lost much of their top talent to the three big Dallas academy teams: Solar, Andromeda and the Texans. "All of the boys who are actually playing for Keller right now, all they hear about and see written is about the academy players," Keller coach Jason Bates said. "The kids who left made their choice."

The players' parents disagree. "These kids are students first, and you have to make good grades for an opportunity at a scholarship," Jim Pujats said. "I don't think that was taken into consideration at all. That's what's most disappointing."

 "In a few years, the issue will dissipate, as players will commit to an academy and never play at the high school level. For now, however, the split is fresh. It's not the kids fault that they had to make that choice." Solar coach Kevin Smith said. "For their development in soccer, choosing academy was their best move. There's nothing we can do to change it. It's the new rules we have to go by. I don't think it's right that they can't go sign their letters of intent after giving three good years to their school. But there's no win-win. There are two sides and the kids are caught in the middle."
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