Football team controversy continues
North Bergen school board hires attorney to get state title restored
by Jim Hague
Reporter sports columnist
Sep 09, 2012 | 5070 views | 1 1 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ONE MORE TRY – Three months after having their state football championship taken away by the NJSIAA for alleged recruiting violations, the Bruins of North Bergen will have their case heard by the State Commissioner of Education, after a formal appeal was filed last week.
ONE MORE TRY – Three months after having their state football championship taken away by the NJSIAA for alleged recruiting violations, the Bruins of North Bergen will have their case heard by the State Commissioner of Education, after a formal appeal was filed last week.
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The North Bergen Board of Education is apparently not ready to give up the 2011 state high school football championship title that the Bruins won on the gridiron last December.

The board has hired attorney Patrick Jennings of Hackensack to represent them in an appeal against the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association in order to have the North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state title reinstated to North Bergen High School.

Last year, a story appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger stating that two players on the championship North Bergen High School team, Denzell Leitch and Eric McMullen, were brought into the school district by members of legendary football coach Vince Ascolese’s family and actually received heavily discounted rent in a two-family home owned by the Ascolese family. Recruiting is against state athletic rules.
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Jennings sounded confident that he could win the case in the appeal.
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The matter was turned over to the NJSIAA. The organization’s seven-member controversies committee made an initial ruling in April allowing North Bergen to keep the title but placing North Bergen in a two-year probationary period in which the school’s administration would have to attend seminars regarding student/athlete eligibility. The NJSIAA found that the contact made by former head coach Vince Ascolese’s daughter to the two players was enough to be construed as recruiting.

In June, at the NJSIAA’s final meeting of the scholastic school year, the NJSIAA’s executive committee unanimously overturned the initial ruling and stripped North Bergen of the title.

The vote to appeal the decision took place in a span of 40 minutes after the meeting began. Sources say that there was no way that the executive committee members could have fully read the 24-page report filed by the controversies committee in that time span and given a full interpretation; thus, the thought that the vote was preconceived and planned.

It was the first time in the history of the association that a state championship had been negated for alleged improprieties.

The appeal

The North Bergen Board of Education’s appeal states that the NJSIAA’s executive committee overstepped its bounds by overturning the initial decision.

In filing his appeal to State Commissioner of Education Christopher Cerf on Tuesday, Jennings said that he believed the NJSIAA acted improperly in removing the state championship from the Bruins.

“The Executive Committee acted contrary to its own constitution, by-laws, rules and regulations and it comes as at significant and costly price to the students of North Bergen,” the papers of the appeal read. “The Executive Committee compromised the standards of the entire association. In its haste, they stripped North Bergen of its NJSIAA state championship and trampled on the NJSIAA’s constitution, by-laws, rules and regulations.”

“North Bergen did not violate any of the NJSIAA’s by-laws, rules and regulations,” Jennings said. “Thus, we appealed the executive committee’s decision.”

Successful record

Jennings has had a successful history of handling matters with the NJSIAA. He has represented several local schools in dealing with NJSIAA rules, as well as individual eligibility cases involving student/athletes.

Jennings sounded confident that he could win the case in the appeal.

“There’s no question that the NJSIAA’s executive committee acted improperly in overturning the original decision,” Jennings said.

North Bergen Board of Education attorney Jack Gillman said that the appeal “was the right move.”

“The NJSIAA’s executive committee’s ruling was unfair,” Gillman said. “That’s what we retained Pat Jennings to see if this was worthwhile in appealing. The executive committee should not be acting as an appellate body to their own controversies committee. They didn’t follow the rules. We have to appeal for the benefit of the kids who won the state championship fair and square on the field last December.”

Steve Timko, the executive director of the NJSIAA, said in a statement, “The NJSIAA is disappointed to have received North Bergen’s appeal, but respects North Bergen’s rights to do so. The appeal is now in the hands of our legal counsel. While we will not offer specific comment on an active appeal, our membership can be confident we will represent their interests with vigor. We are confident that the Executive Committee’s decision will be upheld.”

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LCM
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September 10, 2012
This time Cerf or the NJSIAA should declare that North Bergen football has forfeited all of its victories for the past two years in which ineligible players participated as there guidelines outline. They should have done this in the beginning but they were trying to show some respect to a legendary coach who was retiring and ill. This is what the NJSIAA’s guidelines actually call out. North Bergen originally got off easy. However, due to the uproar from everyone else, the NJSIAA encouraged Montclair to appeal so they could get off the hook but still they were lenient with North Bergen because they did not void their victories for the past two years as there guidelines outline in cases like this. North Bergen has shown no appreciation for what was done. In order to send a clear message, officially vanquish the victories of North Bergen for the past two years in which the players in question participated. This will show there are some teeth behind the guidelines.