Head coach, assistant for Pa. Catholic high school football team suspended for recruiting

MIKE WHITE
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Seton-LaSalle High School.

Mauro Monz was hired in November as Seton LaSalle's new football coach. But he won't be coaching the team this season because of a suspension for allegedly recruiting players from other schools.

The WPIAL board of directors, by a 12-0 vote, has suspended Monz and one of his assistant coaches for a year and also put Seton LaSalle's program on two years probation. The WPIAL informed Seton LaSalle Wednesday of the suspensions. The league made the ruling after conducting a hearing Tuesday with Monz and assistant coaches Jason Pinkston and Will Dodson. Pinkston was also suspended for a year, but Dodson was not suspended.

Seton LaSalle school principal Lauren Martin and interim athletic director Dante DaBaldo were also present at the hearing and the WPIAL censured Martin and the Seton LaSalle administration for "lack of institutional oversight."

The WPIAL held the hearing after four schools filed formal complaints with the league about Seton LaSalle. The schools were Bethel Park, Brownsville, Canon-McMillan and McGuffey. WPIAL executive director Amy Scheuneman said she can't ever remember four schools coming forward and accusing a school of recruiting. All four schools were represented at the hearing and gave testimony. Although the hearing was closed, the Post-Gazette has learned that testimony included text messages and phone records.

"The board listened to testimony and the presentation of info, which supported the claims that this was not just hearsay," Scheuneman said. "(The evidence) included that communications have happened."

Under PIAA rules, which the WPIAL follows, the penalty for any coach found guilty of recruiting is an automatic suspension of at least one year. The PIAA by-laws state, "Any person determined to have engaged in recruiting which is materially motivated in some way by an athletic purpose shall be disqualified from coaching any athletic teams of PIAA members for a period of at least one year."

Monz and Pinkston are prohibited from coaching any athletic team of a PIAA member school until March 30 of 2022.

Scheuneman said the board felt four different sections of the PIAA by-laws were violated dealing with recruiting. They range from encouraging the parents or relatives of an athlete to attend a school to play sports, and also meeting with athletes of a school, individually or as a group, to encourage them to enroll at a particular school. Another by-law that was allegedly violated was "athletic personnel" using a camp or clinic to "promote their own school."

Dodson runs 7 on 7 teams in the Pittsburgh area during the offseason.

"The school was made aware to be mindful of his actions and interactions with student athletes through his organization," Scheuneman said.

The WPIAL sent a letter to Seton LaSalle outlining the penalties. Neither Monz or Martin could be reached for comment.

Seton LaSalle is a Catholic school in Mt. Lebanon and the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh issued a statement on its web site Wednesday that said, "As was stated at the hearing, neither Seton LaSalle, nor any high school in the Diocese of Pittsburgh engages in the recruiting of students for athletic purposes. We are examining all basis for appealing this decision and will have more on that appeal in the near future."

Seton LaSalle can appeal the suspensions and probation to the PIAA.

As part of the two-year probation against Seton LaSalle, any additional information pertaining to recruiting violations could lead to additional penalties and sanctions, such as the suspension of all or some Seton LaSalle athletic programs from competing against other PIAA member schools.

Seton LaSalle must also "produce and submit specific requested documents to the league office that will educate and prepare all school athletic personnel about the PIAA by-laws prior to Aug. 1."

Monz was hired to succeed Mike Zmijanac, who retired after last season. Monz is a former Seton LaSalle and Duquesne University player who has had held assistant coaching jobs on the college and high school level. Monz was a high school head coach once before at Carlynton in 2014, but resigned after three games.

Pinkston is a former player at Pitt who also spent three years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns.

This is the second time in a year that the WPIAL has suspended a Seton LaSalle coach for alleged recruiting. David Lee, a baseball assistant coach, was suspended for this season.

"The board felt very strongly that the Seton LaSalle administration needs to do a better job of informing and educating their staff on what is allowed and not allowed," Scheuneman said.