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Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Amsterdam, NY ,

Photo submitted A clipping from The Recorder shows Jonathan Gluck, left, and Stu Palczak after the Amsterdam duo won a contest in the 1970s to name the Big 10. The league folded today.

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As Big 10 folds, a look back at how the league got its name

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 - Updated: 10:28 AM

By MICHAEL KELLY

michael.kelly@recordernews.com

After several decades of competition, the Big 10 Athletic Conference is no more.

The league -- which the Greater Amsterdam School District was set to leave today, anyway, for the Foothills Council -- voted to disband itself a few weeks ago, as the remaining assortment of private and public schools decided the best course of action was to go their separate ways.

That decision was not totally a surprise, as it was known the league was in trouble. But what many might not know -- or at least not remember -- is that the now fallen league's name has Amsterdam ties, specifically to a current Amsterdam High School coach.

Stu Palczak -- the school's head coach for its girls cross country, and track and field teams -- and childhood friend Jonathan Gluck won a contest to name the league back when it was formed. When they were students at Raphael J. McNulty elementary in the mid-'70s, Palczak said the duo came up with the name one day on the way to school.

"We were walking to school -- we walked every day -- and we were chatting up, and brainstormed that," Palczak said last week.

The Greater Amsterdam School District athletic department had been running a "Name the New League" contest, as teams from the Diocesan League and the Class A League were set to merge. Gluck's and Palczak's submission was accepted as the winner, and local radio personality Bill Pope shared the honor, too.

"We were all honored at a basketball game later that year," Palczak said.

For years, Palczak had kept the newspaper clipping of Gluck and himself -- "It's pretty goofy, believe me," Palczak said -- and the piece of history gained a new level of relevance when it was announced that the Big 10 was folding.

Amsterdam was a founding member of the league, which ceased to operate while in its fourth decade of work. Along with Amsterdam, the league recently included Albany, Catholic Central, CBA, Bishop Maginn, La Salle Institute, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, Schenectady and Troy.

Before the Big 10 elected to cease operations, Amsterdam had already applied and been accepted to the Foothills Council earlier this year.

"We saw the writing on the wall," Palczak said. "The league was ready to break apart."

For several years, the league had been on the verge of imploding. Several member schools had attempted to leave -- Amsterdam had a failed attempt to make it to the Foothills Council a couple of years ago -- as the conference's mix of schools seemingly had less in common with each passing year in terms of school size and needs.

Still, how quickly the league's dissolution came about was something of a surprise, as there had been discussions earlier this year to add new teams.

Instead, the remaining member schools will become independent for athletics in 2014-15.

"It was bittersweet," Palczak said. "The league was great for the years it lasted. Amsterdam had some intense rivalries, and a lot of the teams from the league had success at the state level. It was sad, in a way, to see it end, but it was also inevitable and time to move on."

     

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