Ty Lewis Clinic/Thoughts on North Bergen Situation/College Commitments

The event organizers wanted me to send out a reminder to the Shore Conference coaches that the annual Ty Lewis Coaching Clinic, named after the late Red Bank Regional coach, will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) at Manasquan High School. Registration is from 3-4 p.m. and the cost is $25.

Also, here are some more college commitments. Toms River South senior fullback/linebacker Zack Liguori, an All-Class A South selection by the coaches, will continue his career at Montclair State. The Raritan trio of linebackers Nick Pydeski, Jamie Pasquin and Jared Rivera are all headed to Springfield College. Monmouth Regional offensive lineman Max Neis will be playing at Moravian College, and his Falcons teammate, offensive lineman Evan Imber, is going to FDU-Florham. Southern linebacker Alex Cattelona will continue his career at McDaniel College.

Finally, a comment on this whole North Bergen situation. The NJSIAA found legendary coach Vincent Ascolese to have recruited two players on the team that won the North I Group IV title by stunning unbeaten Montclair this past fall. The penalty levied by the NJSIAA was two years probation, which means it has to provide proof to the NJSIAA before each season that its athletes are eligible and its administrators have to take a remedial course on the NJSIAA’s handbook. I also believe they will be subjected to one wedgie and one noogie apiece from an NJSIAA official.

You know what that means? Coaches, recruit to your heart’s content. With no penalty of forfeiting games or being stripped of titles or being banned from the state playoffs, what is there to really stop from cutting corners other than the moral implications of it? You might get double secret probation from New Jersey’s version of Dean Wormer. Plus, if you know this is going to be your last year coaching, recruit everyone in sight because you won’t be touched or your legacy won’t be affected once you walk out the door.

I fail to see how using recruited players to win a state title is different than using ineligible players, which results in teams forfeiting any games in which those players participated. How that state title was not vacated is beyond me. Essentially the NJSIAA let North Bergen keep the ill-gotten spoils of its tarnished victory. The players were both seniors, so they move on without penalty. Ascolese ran as shady a program as you’re going to find, the NJSIAA report details it, and he straight-up got away with it. It sends the message that if you’re a coach looking for a shortcut to a title, the NJSIAA rules and enforcement are not going to be a problem.

This was a chance to send a real message. The NJSIAA rarely ever is able to prove athletes were recruited, and here it was on a platter. North Bergen should’ve been stripped of the title and every single win in which those players participated. Plus, North Bergen’s probation should have included a two-year ban on being able to play in the state playoffs. Make the penalties real, and maybe that will get the next unethical coach to think twice about cheating.

As for Ascolese, his accomplishments over his 50-year career are built on a house of sand as far as I’m concerned. I don’t care how many games he won. He’s a fraud. His lawyer is crowing in that Star-Ledger story that his record is “unblemished” and he was a credit to the school and community. Give me a break. He got caught this time, but it makes you wonder how many other years he had ringers brought in to facilitate winning and then discarded them when he was done with them without the larger public or the NJSIAA being any the wiser.

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