John Hull's Notebook

Patrick Roth was all smiles Thursday night. His annual “Runnin’ with the Pack” boys basketball tournament just tipped off, tasty lasagna was being served in the hospitality room and three days of quality basketball was on tap.

And, he wanted to talk about how much fun he was having coaching his Cosumnes Oaks Wolfpack already this season.

“I like my group of guys, they work so hard,” Roth said. “I cannot stress how much time these guys have been putting in. I’m having the time of my life. This is the best year of coaching I’ve had.”

But, then the topic of conversation turned towards the night prior. Both the boys and girls basketball teams at feeder school Elizabeth Pinkerton Middle School had won the Elk Grove Unified championships. The natural question was, “Do you have any good players coming in next season?”

But, Roth’s face turned serious. What came next was something only one other coach had been willing to share with me – and share on the record. Two private schools were recruiting the players that should be attending Cosumnes Oaks next year and he was tired of it. That’s because this isn’t the first year it’s been happening around Pinkerton. 

"To be honest those private schools - Capital Christian and Christian Brothers - those parents just live at the (Pinkerton M.S.) games and they don't even have kids playing (at Pinkerton),” Roth claimed. “I was just at Pinkerton and saw a couple Capital parents sitting in the stands and they don't have any kids on the team. We've been picked, we’ve been struggling the past few years in keeping our kids here."

Roth says he’s lost players and the school has lost athletes in other sports, as well, on the promise of a better education, better athletic experience and even “full-ride scholarship” if the athlete attends their high school. 

"That's ridiculous,” he exclaimed. “We run a great program. I would challenge it  with anybody’s with what we do. In term of our culture, we have breakfasts together, we are in the weight room, we’re watching film, we’re year round. There is no way that any other school in this area is that much better. For all those Capital Christian people who tell they’ll give them a scholarship to these kids.”

Then he laughs: “I'll do the same thing here. We are already free, we're a public school. And, our quality of education is higher. We’ve got great teachers on this campus that can teach circles around most teachers.”

Capital Christian High School's superintendent Monday told the Citizen he refutes Roth's claims that anyone connected with his school is recruiting basketball players. Todd Jacobs stated in a voicemail that no athlete receives "full ride scholarships" as Roth alleges.

"All financial aid is needs-based, strictly needs-based," he claims.

Jacobs doesn't know who the people are who are claim to be with Capital Christian attending basketball games at Pinkerton.

"I'd like to know who they are," he said. Plus, Jacobs acknowledged such actions, if indeed on behalf of his school, are in violation of CIF rules.

He claimed that no one officially representing his school was at Pinkerton at the time Roth said.

Still, you have to admire Roth for being willing to step up and call out the private schools for something we all know has been happening for quite some time.  Nothing wrong with a school promoting a Christian education or the benefits of the private school culture versus the public school, but going after a student only for his or her athletic ability and then offering scholarships is unethical. 

Now, Roth isn’t going to take this sitting down, either. He realizes in order to keep his basketball program at a high level, he’s going to have to have a closer tie with the young men coming through Pinkerton and even to the elementary schools in his part of Elk Grove. Much like the junior teams in football, he’s going to oversee a junior Wolfpack program that starts in the sixth grade, and eventually, in the fourth grade. 

Yet, Roth and other like him now realize that the only way a public high school is going to have a successful sports program is to reach out to the elementary and middle schoolers in your feeder schools and run a program that is year-round.

Coaching a varsity sport isn’t a part-time job any longer.

Cervantes, Ta’amu named all-state 

Diego Cervantes, a 2016 graduate of Elk Grove, was named to the CCCAA All-State football team Friday. The American River College offensive lineman was selected to the squad alongside teammate Griffin Dahn, the Beavers’ quarterback, and return man Damen Wheeler. Former Jesuit and current Sierra College wide receiver Isaiah Bailey was also named to the All-State team along with one of Cervantes’ Elk Grove teammates, Lau Ta’amu, a defensive lineman at Sacramento City College.

The Beavers were the CCCAA runner-ups, losing the State Championship to Fullerton College on Dec. 10.