NORTH BERGEN – The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s controversies committee ruled Thursday morning that the North Bergen High School football team will get to keep the 2011 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state championship the Bruins won in thrilling fashion last December at MetLife Stadium.
The seven-member panel, comprised of former and current athletic coaches, administrators and school administrators, decided not to penalize North Bergen by stripping the Bruins of their title, and rather levied a two-year probationary period on the program, where the school principal, athletic director and guidance officers will have to be monitored for future eligibility requirements.
“The school will be permitted to retain its championship,” the final report from the NJSIAA reads. “The Committee does not take this step lightly and reserves the NJSIAA’s right to prohibit the North Bergen football program from championship competition in the future if the school violates NJSIAA rules during the period of probation. The Committee believes, however, that under the unique circumstances of this case this step is warranted.”
The NJSIAA investigated a newspaper report that legendary football coach Vince Ascolese, now since retired, had illegally recruited two students to play for the Bruins, but the NJSIAA found no evidence that Ascolese had recruited either of the players, thus the reason for not stripping the Bruins of the title.
The ruling enables the Bruins' fairy tale season to stand. The Bruins won two state playoff games in thrilling fashion, including an overtime thriller against neighboring rival Union City, before upsetting Montclair in the state title game, 14-13, a game that no one thought the Bruins had a chance to win. It was also the final game after a storied 50-year coaching career for Ascolese, who coached his grandson, Vin, in that championship game. The Bruins also won that championship game on the game's final play. -- Jim Hague