A state emergency ordering the removal of all remaining students at the Glen Mills Schools amid allegations of abuse left coaches and administrators in the Del Val League in shock and scrambling to figure out how to fill the scheduling void.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Human Services ordered relocation of the remaining 64 students from the nation’s oldest reform school Monday afternoon. An investigation published by the Philadelphia Inquirer investigation last month detailed history of physical abuse at the school.
Without Glen Mills, the Del Val League’s participating members consist of five schools: Academy Park, Chester, Chichester, Interboro and Penn Wood.
The news has immediate ramifications on the league. Baseball and track & field teams are left with holes in their respective schedules for the 2019 spring season.
“We’re just trying to get it together,” said Len Jordan, the track & field coach at Penn Wood. “It affects us real hard, especially facility wise. We don’t have a track so we’re always on the move and now we’re losing one of our best facilities. We have our (league) qualifier there.”
Coaches and athletic directors were still processing the news late Monday.
“Due to the timing when we got the news, there hasn’t been much scrambling or meeting with coaches. Most of my coaches found out by whatever media source there is,” said Jason Vosheski, the football coach and athletic director at Academy Park. “They made this decision weeks ago that they weren’t going to have boys tennis, so one sport that is truly affected is baseball. The Del Val (track) qualifier is big, it’s a two-day thing and it was always at Glen Mills. Finding a home for that will be difficult somewhat in the meantime, but you’re losing about one dual meet with Glen Mills. Most track teams are not making their bones doing dual meets or tri-meets, they’re going to invitationals. But it’s still kind of difficult for everyone.”
The loss of Glen Mills could determine whether a Del Val baseball team qualifies for the District 1 tournament in May. Baseball power rankings are contingent upon wins against league competition — the only sport in District 1 that determine playoff brackets this way — and the potential of three fewer wins could cost every Del Val team.
“Losing them in track hurts, losing them in baseball hurts more,” Vosheski said. “Baseball is the only sport that only counts league games. You ask a normal person and they’ll tell you that’s not right. That’s where it’s going to hurt the most. It’s going to hurt a team like us, or a Penn Wood or a Chester, because we may have been banking on those games for potential wins. In the past so many years, the four of us, with Glen Mills, have been three, four, five and six (places) in the league. Our teams would need those wins more so than Interboro or Chichester because they’ve historically been at the top.”
Glen Mills was already on thin ice in the Del Val. Following a general meeting of athletic directors and superintendents on March 12, the school for court-adjudicated juvenile males was downgraded to associate member status. It was announced at the time that Glen Mills would not field a varsity football program.
The Del Val football teams were left searching a game to fill out their 2019 schedules.
“We didn’t find out early enough, I’ll say that much,” Vosheski said. “For us and Penn Wood, for example, we were playing them game 10 and they were playing them game nine. Even for all of the league, it’s very difficult to find games. The Ches-Mont has had a team with a bye in the last five weeks of the season, which could help some teams in the Del Val. … We had a heads-up, but not quite enough of a heads-up to potentially try and book those missing games.”
The Del Val League has had an on-again, off-again relationship with Glen Mills for decades. Glen Mills’ entry into the Del Val League back in the 1980s was met with mixed reviews. Glen Mills voluntarily withdrew from the league for football only in 1995 after several league members complained the football program had become too powerful and had outgrown the competition in the Del Val. Glen Mills returned as a league member in football in 2008.
“It’s a big shock. We’re going to have to get around it. We just got our schedule together and now we have to move stuff around,” Jordan said. “We already had our league meeting and now we have to have another one.”
So, what does the future hold for the Del Val League? Athletic directors are scheduled to meet again April 2 to discuss plans moving forward without Glen Mills in the picture.
“When you look at some of our girls sports, they already have three or four teams,” Vosheski said. “We’re in a weird spot because we’re the only league like that (with five or fewer teams). Suburban League has 22 teams, the Ches-Mont has 21 teams, the Central League has 12 teams. Unless one of those leagues wants to engulf all of us, we’re either going to stay the way we are or who knows what’s going to happen.”
Terry Toohey contributed to this report.