PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One of the stars of the Gateway Gators high school football team will be on the field Friday night.

The WPIAL board of the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League has ruled that freshman, Aiden Howard, did not transfer into the district from the North Hills School District for athletic reasons.

Transferring for athletic intent is against the rules of the WPIAL and the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association or PIAA.

Howard is one of three transfers on this year’s Gators team, whose coach Terry Smith has been the target of criticism from some in the district who say he has built his powerhouse team by recruiting talented players from other districts.

This year’s transfers include defensive standout Brenon Thrift and star wide receiver Ricky Rodgers.

Rodgers, who is being heavily recruited by major college football programs across the country, recently moved to Monroeville from the Keystone Oaks School District. The WPIAL board voted to deny his transfer, but was overruled by the state PIAA, to the frustration of WPIAL members.

“It was the opinion, the majority opinion of the board that there was an athletic motivation to that move,” said Tim O’Malley, WPIAL’s executive director.

Rodgers’ mother says his move was unrelated to football.

“I never even met Coach Smith,” Cheryl Sandora told KDKA investigator Andy Sheehan.

Smith’s attorney also maintains that his client does not recruit.

“This man has done nothing wrong,” said Attorney Milton Raiford. “He has not recruited anyone.”

And the district maintains that Gateway’s reputation for transfer athletes is largely unearned.

“We know that is the perception, but again, the perception is not true,” said district spokeswoman Cara Zanella. “Our statistics show the vast majority of those who transfer into the district transfer for the academics.”

Of 352 kids who have transferred into Gateway High School in the past four years, only 27 have joined sports teams.

Still, many of those 27 have been very talented athletes, including Jaylen Coleman, a standout running back who had played for Peabody High School in the City, but moved to Gateway two years ago.

Coach Smith subsequently kicked Coleman off the team for what Smith called “a violation of a team rules” and Coleman moved back to the city to play for University Prep.

Sheehan asked WPIAL director O’Malley if that wasn’t proof that Coleman went to Gateway to play football.

“I’m sure you could make that assumption,” admitted O’Malley.

In addition to the controversy over transfers, Coach Smith recently filed an EEOC complaint against the school district, claiming the board’s decision last summer to make his duties as Gateway’s Athletic Director part-time and cut his salary by half was racially motivated.

Gateway HS Football Coach Files EEOC Complaint With District (10/22/12)
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