District hoping to schedule additional game for Montclair High School football team
(EDWARD KENSIK/FILE PHOTO)
The Montclair High School football team may return to the field for one final game to celebrate the seniors and the end of a hard-fought season.
Last week, the Montclair High School football team was forced to forfeit its four season victories and its eligibility for the state playoffs after it was found that the team had played with an academically ineligible student.
“We are trying to get another football game,” schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds said at the Wednesday Montclair Board of Education meeting.
The district is holding people accountable for what has happened, Ponds said at the meeting.
“We're making sure this never happens again,” he said.
On Thursday, David Cantor, the district’s executive director of communications and community engagement, said that the district is still looking into how the student's academic information was shared.
The district has reached out to other coaches and athletic directors about scheduling another game so the team, especially the seniors, can finish the season “on a high note,” Ponds said.
The superintendent also spoke with Jonathan Koppell, Montclair State University president, about using an MSU field for the additional game, he said at the meeting.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association has not yet responded to an inquiry sent Thursday asking if a team is allowed to play another game after a player has been ruled ineligible.
On Friday, Oct. 28, Ponds met with the football team to explain the situation, he said at the board meeting.
“Every young man in there knew it was not their fault,” Ponds said. “They are not to blame. Adults made this error.”
Students heard rumors of Montclair’s ban the night before on social media.
On Tuesday, Ponds met with parents and caregivers of the football players for what he described as “an emotional meeting and rightfully so.”
“This is devastating, devastating for the players, devastating for the coaches,” Ponds said at the board meeting.
The district will do “a better job” of making sure every child who is in academic stress is taken care of and monitored, Ponds said. That monitoring will be done by the district’s athletic director but also other individuals in the district, he said.
In a community message sent on the morning of Oct. 28, Ponds explained the process for vetting eligibility.
"A report is generated by the athletic director before the season for each of our sports teams that lists ineligible players, and we are actively investigating why the oversight occurred," Ponds wrote.
The district was notified by former Montclair High School football coach John Fiore about the issue. Fiore said that he received an anonymous phone call Thursday night about the issue and that he immediately called current Montclair head coach Jermain Johnson about the allegations of the academically ineligible student.
Patrick Scarpello, Montclair High School athletic director, has accepted a position with the New Hope-Solebury School District in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He has been the Montclair athletic director since 2017. Scarpello’s New Hope approval came the day before news broke about the football team.
His last day in the district will be Dec. 28, according to his resignation approval by the Montclair Board of Education.
Scarpello has not yet responded to emails to his district address and voicemails left with the district's athletic department and his personal phone since Nov. 1.